Moreover, our eyes failed,
looking in vain for help;
from our towers we watched
for a nation that could not save us.
People stalked us at every step,
so we could not walk in our streets.
Our end was near, our days were numbered,
for our end had come.
. . .
The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath,
was caught in their traps.
We thought that under his shadow
we would live among the nations.
– Lamentations 4:17, 18, 20
I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord.
– Jeremiah 21:10
This winter I gave up on biking and decided to walk to work. Biking, particularly in winter, was a very focused and often stressful practice requiring constant focus and attention. Walking has opened up time and attention regularly to other things. It has allowed me to give small acts of attention both to my neighbourhood as well as to listening and exploring new music as I walk. This has turned, unintentionally, into a sort of spiritual discipline or daily devotion (to use the old language).
This, in turn, has led me into spaces of lament (though bitterness and despair are likely more accurate words). Last week there was a double shooting outside my house. This brought to a point both the vulnerability of many in my neighbourhood as well as the mobility and privilege I have in how I want to deal with it. This morning I walked past a still snow covered community garden and saw a pile of Lysol cans and by the end of the street I was greeted with a sign announcing the ‘grand opening’ of a new pawn shop. This is a community suffering trauma. A community medicating itself. A community desperate to find access to the resources consistently denied to it. A community too easily abandoned.
To be sure this is a beautiful community. There are many reasons why we simply love living here. But beauty is not armor, punch it enough and it bruises, breaks, and bleeds. These are my devotions. And I have tried to accompany them with the appropriate Psalms,
Dear Lord, have mercy
On the ones that go through life like it’s a game
I won’t be forced to shut up when I don’t feel the same
Cause people gonna lie
Some people gonna steal
You gotta be careful not to shit where you live
Them people might try to have you killed
Lord have mercy, life is such a battlefield
– Killer Mike and Scar
So it seems our people starve from lack of understanding
Cos all we seem to give them is some balling and some dancing
And some talking about our car and imaginary mansions
We should be indicted for bullshit we inciting
Hand the children death and pretend that its exciting
We are advertisements for agony and pain
– Killer Mike