Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Making for Peace

Actual statuses and captions from the kiddos pictures (warning, some badly misspelled foul language included)
“Behind this beautiful smile lies a world of pain”
“Grown up wit no father figure, da streets was my role model”
“1 day I hope I will B able 2 smoke all da pain away.”
“U can look me in da eyes and feel my pain.”
“Mann Wen iGo BaXk Too cKourt IHope Dem cKracKers LoXxk My BlaXxk Ahh BaXk Up FuxXk Dese Streets
“Now they tryna give my brother life man, I swear this shit make me want to take my life fr man“
“Just could Have threw my life away but good is good”
“GeekedLife higher than i ever been
Thinkin bout my past and got mad at the faxt that i gt to live like dis but this only make me stronger”
Sometimes I get on facebook or instagram to check on a kid I haven’t seen in a while. I usually regret it a little, because the things I see, they clench my stomach in terror for my own children to face the teenager years. I always feel old saying it, but heavens I am grateful I did not stumble through the horrors of adolescence in the age of social media. And so I am sad for them, and a little alarmed; but also slightly amazed at the insight these kids have into their own hearts. That they recognize and can even name the pain behind their behaviors. That they know they can’t quite smoke away all the agony. That they recognize how the streets hunger for their lives.

The amount of death that invades their lives, as a matter of fact, grows astonishing and quickly. My friend Ashlee tells me that at last year’s Carver HS graduation there were eight speakers, the two top students from each of the four schools. Of those eight, six of them had lost a parent. Those statistics stagger. I wrack my brain to think of one kid I knew in high school who had lost a parent, or a sister or brother. Loss permeates the landscape in ways both hidden and open like a gaping wound.

Not far from our neighborhood, pieces of Atlanta look startlingly similar to a war-zone. In fact, a certain street that I drive down often is marked by blood-red graffiti on boarded over doors and shattered window frames: W-A-R. The red scrawl unsettles me, particularly across the side of a house charred by flames, where they sit above the words JIM CROW NOW, although someone has scratched through Jim Crow unconvincingly.
As I drive and the words sear themselves in my heart, I think about war. About violence, and about loss and death. I wonder what we are doing here if not fighting for peace. And then I think about the awkward juxtaposition of “fighting” for peace and what it REALLY means to be a peacemaker. To be a part of the things that make for peace.

When we first started working with inner-city kids, I remember feeling caught off guard by just how difficult it felt to try and get the kids to apologize to one another. I wonder, I remember telling Adam, if it is physically impossible for his mouth to form the words: I’m sorry. What should we do, we discussed, if the message they get at home is that if they get hit, they should hit back harder.

It comes down, of course, to the myth of redemptive violence. The idea that somehow, more violence will put an end to the violence. Zack told us when you start a new school, you will have to fight a couple people, and then no one will mess with you anymore. I remember feeling confused by this ritual, this idea of escalating to end it – of fighting to put a stop to more fighting later on. Of course I dont understand, because I grew up in a school and a reality where violence was not a part of the cadence of my life. But still, it is a pervasive myth. One that permeates not just here, but all the way to corners of the war rooms and highest offices of the land.

And yet, regardless of our different landscapes and histories, we believe in the Jesus who declared a gospel of peace. In fact, His admonishment to turn the other cheek, to love your enemies, might just be the most revolutionary and counter-cultural idea he spoke of. And just like those who didn’t want a peaceable Jesus, those who crucified Him because they expected a Messiah who would overthrow their enemies, who would take back by force everything taken from them. So too, for a historically oppressed people group, this message of peace sounds suspiciously like foolishness. Because for the one who has had their cloak taken again and again, giving your tunic as well sounds not like victory but defeat.

I find myself often lately looking at the boys around us, both the ones who sit down at our table, and the ones who play football and give hugs but still look at us suspiciously when we invite them in. I look at them and remember when Jesus “saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace!” And so I pray, of course, for wisdom and change and hope and grace. But mostly, I pray for peace. For the kind of peace that makes no sense, that passes understanding, but that changes and heals and turns everything upside down.


  1. hey i was super happy about this post because i love the realness and honesty and you walking through life with real people soooo :)

  2. Joining you in your prayer for peace. xoxoxo

  3. I totally get this. I had some conversations with my kids this week about how violence doesn't solve violence. So thankful for your honesty even when if it makes people uncomfortable

    1. Thanks friend - also, I'm still waiting for you to come over again :-) Adam made a front porch swing . . .

  4. Just feeling kind of excited at seeing out street on your blog. :) I do hope we can meet up someday.


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