When words fail

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. —Romans 8:26

I had planned to share with you another magical place on my recent journey to the California coast. But that’ll have to wait.

I don’t know which of the many words tumbling through my head I ought to share here. I don’t know which words to fling up to heaven, like the song of a caged bird. I’m relieved to have a Holy Spirit who will intercede with groanings. There are some prayers for which words alone do not feel sufficient.


One of my least favorite memories came screaming back this week.

When I was just out of college, I taught at an all-white high school in a rural community. The klan had a heavy presence in that community, and every so often, one of the teenage boys would ask me if I had gone to the march the previous weekend. Some of the students wanted to know when was I ever going to get married, because I was clearly teetering on the edge of becoming an old maid. I was an outsider to them, a woman who talked funny and definitely wasn’t from around those parts.

One young man insisted on carving swastikas in his tests and quizzes. He didn’t like me having the temerity to tell him to stop doing that. He bragged to another teacher that he was going to kill me. I remember one of the assistant principals asking me if I had any students in that boy’s classroom who would protect me if it came down to it. And that was the end of any conversation about the matter.


Of everything I’ve read this week about Charlottesville, the one line that keeps repeating in my head is from a Bitter Southerner article, The Perpetual Unpleasantness:

As for me, I find myself inextricably drawn to a simple idea: that the time for the benevolent but silent white Southerner is over. —Chuck Reece

Silent benevolence is not unique to Southerners. Racism isn’t, either. And so I would enlarge Reece’s call to include all benevolent but silent white people.

Reece’s words remind me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

So let me not be silent, but instead, find the courage to speak when necessary.

A white man filled with evil intent killed a young woman this weekend. He ran her over with his car, believing her death was better than trying to understand her words. He’s not alone in believing her death justified.

On Monday, one of my former college professors shared a link to an alt-right KKK site. The site listed several reasons applauding the young woman’s murder. I left the page after reading their number one reason. Do you know what their number one reason was? You should. And it should chill you. It was this: She was childless and, as such, a burden on society and therefore useless.

Now, y’all can just take a look at my Good Aunt series to know why that number one reason might have really grabbed my attention. So, no, I should not remain silent.

I get it. Silence is more comfortable. Easier. Safer, at least in the short term. But it does nothing to stop the spread of the disease of racism. To get to the root of what causes such intense hatred. To get us to a place of healing.

The number of voices crying out against what happened in Charlottesville gives me hope. My faith demands hope, too. My faith also demands bravery and wisdom and reconciliation. I hope we’re all up for the task ahead.

I’ve shared this image with you before, and I’ll leave you with it today.

The image includes the NASB’s translation of the verse, but perhaps the more heartening translation for this circumstance is the NRSV. It says:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

When the world is silent about your dreams

“And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

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My husband and I have been TV junkies this week, thanks to the World Track & Field Championships going on in Moscow. There’s typically about four hours of live coverage for us to record overnight and then two more hours mid-day. So when we settle in for the evening, we take our dinner and sit on the couch and try to go through the six or so hours of coverage as quickly as possible. Afterward, I catch up on Facebook and Twitter, sites I dodge throughout the day so I don’t see outcomes of any of the race.

It’s an exciting week to be a track and field fan, but it’s frustrating, too. NBC never shows enough of the distance races, instead breaking up a lap or two here and there with field events and even a news story about anticipated trouble in the upcoming winter Olympics, which will be held in the Soviet Union. There’s a time and place for those stories, but right in the middle of a 10,000 meter race? Not the time.

I’ve also been struck by NBC’s poor announcing. I mean, I expect poor announcing in general from the network, because NBC seems unwilling to hire commentators who get excited about what they’re watching, but specifically, I’m shocked when they don’t even mention an American athlete’s name during a race. This is an American broadcasting company, and its commentators can’t bother to name all three Americans running in a particular race?

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