“A Long, Unfinished Journey”
This week Derek Chauvin was charged with the murder of George Floyd. Many people, myself included, reacted to the verdict with a sigh of relief. Many, as the man in the above picture, shed tears as they could finally breathe again. A Seattle Times writer described the verdict as “a waypoint on a long, unfinished journey.”
A long, unfinished journey. That is the road to building a just society. It makes me think of the generations it took to build the medieval cathedrals. Three hundred years to build Notre Dame in Paris. Craftspersons would dedicate their entire lives to working on the cathedral knowing they would never see the finished achievement. Are we willing to dedicate our life’s work to a project knowing we may not see its completion? Are we willing to build a cathedral—a cathedral of social justice?
I am cautiously hopeful that we might see change in our country within my lifetime. A change in laws, and systems, and hearts. But I cannot afford the complacency of confidence. I cannot say we are almost there and let up.
Change will not happen without our own continuing hard work. This work includes educating ourselves, building relationships with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, but it must be more than just education. Change will require urging our elected officials to enact laws that are just and fair and truly recognize the equality of every person, laws that will end racism and white supremacy. It may even include taking to the streets ourselves to make our voices heard and standing with those who are oppressed. We cannot leave this project to the next generation. We must work as though it must be completed today, while having faith that we may not live to see the completion.
But I also trust that our work, sacrifice, and love can make a difference even if it takes a long time. A pastor friend of mine recently posted a short video showing a cedar tree surrounded by barbed wire fencing and metal fence posts. Over many years the tree has grown and enveloped some of the barbed wire and even the fence posts. The tree has taken the fencing into itself and it has disappeared. It is a beautiful metaphor for love and love’s work. With time and work and sacrifice, love can take into itself the divisions, pain, oppression, and injustice and healing can occur.
I know the work is hard. It can seem like nothing is changing. We can be tempted to feel frustration, anger, and despair. But there are hopeful waypoints along this journey. We continue to work and we continue to love, we continue to build, even if we will never see the completion of our work. Let’s build a cathedral of love, a cathedral of social justice.