“How long, O Lord?”
Let’s face it, all those goals we had at the end of 2019 were pretty hard to come by this year. I remember ending last year thinking #newdecadenewme but, let’s be real, #newdecadewtf feels a bit more apropos. Advent is a season of expectation. A new beginning. A season of hope.
This year didn’t quite fill me with the warm and tinglies, you know? A lot can be said of our collective consciousness’ evolution this year. As a people, many were sheltered in place and forced to pay attention to atrocities, injustices occurring within our borders. George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubery, and Breonna Taylor have become household names for the most violent of reasons. I’ve found myself wondering over and over again, “how long, Lord?” When will it be enough? When will Black and Brown death stop being sensationalized and give way to systems, powers and principalities falling?
From Palestine to the Bronx
I think back to my travels to Palestine with Peace Not Walls just over a year ago. So much of what we saw looked apocalyptic. Some structures were decaying, there was overcrowding in some places, and the general sense of stifled potential. Yet, within those buildings, was a richness that could fill generations with life and vitality. Behind those walls are the brightest of smiles, the most generous of persons, the most perseverant of souls. What happens to a person who in the midst of constant barrages of the most heinous acts of violence and oppression, still chooses to find joy and hold onto hope when peace and justice elude them?
Over these last 10 months, the world has seen massive changes. Universal changes have encumbered everything, everywhere. I could never imagine a world where I, a wanderlust to my core, would be hesitant to go to an airport, let alone enter an airplane and travel to destinations unknown. Quarantine has forced many of us to look inward, to examine those things we think of as commonplace and trite, the unalienable, the shades of gray. It has challenged indiscriminately and yet, within that, those who have been perpetually marginalized, cannot catch a break.
I come from the Bronx in New York where we have approximately 1.5 million people, yet we are the city with the poorest health in the state, the highest asthma rates in the country, and just over a quarter of the populace lives at or below poverty level. How can we live when the cards are stacked against us?
I’ll tell you right now, I don’t have the answers. What stands out most though, in the midst of this catastrophe, is the human response in our communities. Both in Palestine and in the Bronx, people are suffering because of injustice that is intentional and atrocious. Yet in these places, and countless other communities like it, there is a hope and a joy that eludes the oppressor. A peace in the midst of the constant threat of ambush. A certainty that in spite of the risks of living, it would be a shame to not live our one life to the utmost fullest.
You see that in vecinas picking up food for other women in their building that are at work but need assistance from neighborhood food pantries to feed their kids. You see it outside of buildings when someone blasts their stereo and the whole block erupts in dance. Windows and fire escapes alight with kids and grandparents bopping. Guys and Gals just dancing to the percussion of the salsa beat. You see it in children’s laughter when they crank open a fire hydrant and play as though they were in an oceanic oasis and not the tenements they’re confined to.
That is what I think is the greatest reminder that Advent can offer us. Evil abounds, but so does life. God calls us to live abundantly, fully reliant on the knowledge that tomorrow is not guaranteed but today is. If there’s anything this year has taught us, it’s that we need to slow down. Only then, can we really stop and see those things that are plaguing our world, and work intentionally to change it. We can change today.
Happy in Hope
As I was writing this reflection, Pauls’s words in Romans 12:9-12, came to mind.
Romans 12:9-12 (CEB) tells us, “Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil and hold on to what is good. Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer.”
- Could these words, written by the Apostle Paul in the first century AD, still hold the key to finding joy and holding onto hope when peace and justice elude us?
- When the odds are perpetually stacked against us, what does it take to live into the words of Paul in Romans?
- Paul mentions love, goodness, honor, enthusiasm, hope, being resolute, and devotion – how do you see these practiced by perpetually oppressed populations? How do you view them?
- At the risk of sounding trite, yes, if 2020 has reminded us of anything, it’s that life is a long road and the steps are steep, but what is the one step you will take today to create change?
Annette Rodriguez is a Nuyorican, Bronx native. She was born and raised a PK (Pastor’s Kid) and always promised herself she’d never wind up as an actual Pastor ::insert sardonic laughter::. After attending NYU for undergrad and receiving an MBA from Hofstra University, Annette decided to finally listen to the tugging in her spirit and reluctantly, but faithfully attended Duke Divinity School. Now, she is lead pastor of Woodycrest United Methodist Church in the Bronx. Annette is passionate about sharing the prophetic word of God’s love with all people. She is convinced that God has a wry sense of humor and love that permeates all our perceived faults.