Lots of sad things have happened in Jackson recently. It seems like every time I look at the WLBT Twitter there’s another violent thing that happened… the Moon St shootings (not far from where we live…), the drive by that injured three kids sleeping in their home. About a month ago two different people were killed in a South Jackson apartment complex in one weekend. Every time I log on NextDoor (the forum for our neighborhood) someone else has posted about their door being kicked in and their house robbed. There are online “discussions” about teenage trick-or-treaters, with half the neighbors saying they feel threatened and the other half saying that’s paranoid and racist. And then your friend runs in your house to get something and someone pops her car window and steals her purse.
All of this sad for anyone to see going on in the city that they live in. It’s especially hard when you’re someone who lives where you live on purpose, because you love it and you desperately long to see it be made right. It’s difficult to love a neighborhood and a city, to work and invest and want the kingdom… and instead see gunshots and discord and broken glass. Some days it seems like Jackson is doing so well, like it’s so close… community meetings at Koinonia, the arts scene receiving national recognition, real connections being forged in our neighborhood through a tutoring/mentoring program. And then I read another news story about senseless killing, or hear talk about drugs in our neighborhood… and good things seem so, so far away.
David & I were reading in Genesis 1 earlier this week, the creation story, which is really beautiful. It’s also full of things about light and darkness, which is a Biblical theme that I love. We read about how the earth was formless and void and full of darkness. Then God said, “let there be light,” & there was light. When David came home from work that night, we were standing in the kitchen talking about what we had read that morning. He usually sees through the lens of history and I see through the lens of literature so it makes for pretty interesting conversation. And I told him I’d been thinking a lot about how God made light out of nothing. It wasn’t dim or glimmery or dusky, it was just plain dark. And then, light.
I’m pretty practical and I tend to divide things into “possibly going to happen” and “doubt it.” And I often miss out the joy that comes from genuine belief that God can do things that don’t make sense. A neighborhood that’s cleaning up and organizing and cooperating, I think, oooh, God might do something with this. A neighborhood that’s plagued with drugs and classism and crime… many times I just think, I hope we can make it. But I want more for our city, for our neighborhood, for our street. I want it to be the kind of thing that people point to and say… “Look, it happened there, it could happen somewhere else.” I want us to be a proof point for the God who does irrational things. Yet often times, I simply don’t believe. I “do my part,” bake cookies, go to parties in the park, and lock my security door. There are moments of excitement, when a hard to reach kid really bonds with his tutor, when we meet new neighbors… but then something else happens, leaving me mumbling some prayers which I sometimes doubt will ever be answered. So instead I work hard and wonder if God will do his part.
So I’m praying that God will forgive my arrogance and unbelief. That I’ll dream and imagine and have faith it can come to pass. That I’ll daily believe that the Spirit of God dwells here… in this city, this neighborhood, this block. That I won’t tire of doing good, but will instead believe all the while that we will “look upon the goodness of God in the land of the living.”
Because God doesn’t just make the dim brighter. He makes the dark light. And lately, Jackson seems extremely dark. But he is the remedy. And he says, let there be light. I hope it comes quick.