Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved going for walks. My family would often go for after dinner walks. I spent a summer with my grandparents while I was in grade school and to this day, I cherish the foggy early morning walks I took with them. In college, walking after class gave me room to think. And while living overseas, the best way to take in a new city was walking it.
Walking is noticing. But somehow, I now find myself in an ever-frantic suburban American life, where my default has become to choose the quickest way.
Because of the recent presidential election, the past couple of months have been unbelievable for the U.S. Our country is chaotic and noisy right now. I’ve wanted to shake my fists, share my opinions, claim my rights and protect people who are hurt and afraid. In the loneliness of my feelings, I’ve wanted to hide. In my anger, I’ve wanted to prepare a feast of words and fill gaping mouths of injustice and hatred with truth. I’ve wanted something to happen, and happen now. Frantic fears and frenzied loneliness say there’s no time to take the longer way, no time to stop and notice that the seasons are changing.
I have forgotten how to pause and listen.
The other day, I finally went for a walk. I noticed that more leaves had fallen and the trees were beginning to wait expectantly for blankets of white to come and cover them in a new glory, despite the cold of winter. In the noticing, God’s love reached for my wound-up heart. He reminded me that when I am in the most pressing and overwhelming times, I need most to pause and find the longer way to walk towards hope.
Five days after the election, I met up with a group of women to participate in a Unity Table, where women of different races come together in a safe place to talk about racial reconciliation. Even though past Unity Table gatherings have been valuable to me, I’m embarrassed to say that I almost didn’t go. It felt too difficult to pause; too heavy of a topic to approach given all of the division in our country. But I showed up along with seven other women who could have also chosen not to attend: African American, Asian American, white, some in bi-racial marriages, some single, some married, some mothers, generation Xers, and millennials, but all daughters of the King of Kings.
We came together to laugh, cry, share, ask and answer hard questions. The woman who led our discussion did so with grace and respect. We didn’t all vote the same way last month, but at the table together we looked into each other’s eyes and passed the wine and water. We paused to make room around the table and room in our hearts for narratives other than our own. We paused to listen and learn and link arms despite everything.
This doesn’t mean that one dinner together mended every deep divide in our nation. Gathering at the table will always be the longer way, but it is a step towards hope and healing. It is like a walk that helps us see better. I want to stand with these women and the stories they shared. They are sisters and each of them gives me a greater glimpse of God and the home he is preparing for his people.
To pause for each other is a choice; to pause for each other is to see.
When urgent, angry reactions feel like the only answer, I must pause and listen all the more. When fear leaves me lonely and afraid, feeling like I am the only one who cares enough to do the work, I must remember that there’s a longer way, a longer walk towards lasting hope and reconciliation. Jesus reminded his friends, Mary and Martha, that they can pause at his feet and listen no matter how many tasks loom overhead. He said Mary’s choice to do so would not be taken away from her. Jesus sat at his filthy disciple’s feet and washed them, no matter how urgent or pressing he knew the hour was, no matter how much the disciples didn’t yet understand that he wanted to wash even more than their feet. He paused to serve them and love them in the lowliest way.
As his Church, we must become familiar with pausing again. We must make room to listen and look into each other’s eyes, sit at our Savior’s feet and offer our own to be washed. We must choose to pause and pass the wine and water across the table, and across our divides and differences.