Monday, January 13, 2014

Fear No Evil

What God Has Joined
We studied Psalm 23 last night. You know the one: The Lord is my Shepherd...

We talked a lot about fear, and how this Psalm (and other verses from the Bible) have helped us through difficult times. Have kept us from succumbing to our fears. Have reminded us of God's protection and love.

There were seven adults present, Jicarilla Apache, Anglo, and one self-determined "half-breed." There was a mix of ages, but most were on the far side of forty. In the course of discussing how God is present in difficult times, we naturally discussed "difficult times."

And my heart broke.

Tears filled my eyes when someone discussed the bitter aftermath of their marriage. And two others told of escaping violence in their own homes, bruises, blood, and children in tow.

And another told of the pain and grief of visiting a Holocaust museum in Germany. How the people there stood frozen by the reality of meat hooks hanging from the ceiling of a gas chamber. Collectively, we Christian Jicarilla and Anglo people, gasped for the horror of what was done to the Jews.

But my heart was shattered when a Jicarilla man told of visiting an Indian Boarding School museum. I've read about the history and the maltreatment of the Native children in the United States, but nothing prepared me for his telling of walking through the museum, heart-heavy, and coming around a corner to find a display of a barber's chair. The display included fallen hair in braids on the floor, and he drew in a breath before he could tell us that this was his history. His story.

He was taken to a boarding school as a child, where his braid was cut off. He described the violence of the adults, holding down the boys forcefully while their braids were shorn. He said that he had to leave the museum because it was so traumatic to remember.

Other Jicarilla people began remembering their time in the boarding schools here on the reservation. They told of being forced to wear a dunce cap for speaking Jicarilla. They told of the physical punishments given by their caretakers for "acting Jicarilla." The braids falling to the floor was a universal memory.

There is so much evil in the world, so much wrong in our collective histories, so much pain...

How do we cope with it all?

We cling.

To each other.
                       To God.
                                     To Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Did you hear that?

I will fear no evil, for you are with me. We can take our overwhelming feelings of despair to God; He never leaves us to deal with it alone. He is with us... Emmanuel...

My cup overflows. I have more good in my life than I can comprehend. My blessings are so many that my life overflows with them!

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. These anguishes will be extinguished. I cling to God's promise that every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more death or sadness. All wrongs will be righted (Revelation 21:4).

Amen. So be it.

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