Our little corner of Georgia is in the middle of an extreme drought according to the weather folks. This is unusual for us since we usually average more than 53 inches of rain each year. By comparison, Seattle only gets 38 inches of rain. Yeah, it rains a lot here. In fact, it’s a temperate rainforest. But not this summer. Grass crunches when you walk on it. Trees look tired and are dropping their leaves. Gardens are parched and the ground is hard and cracked. And it’s pretty much what everyone is talking about, even in this wild election year.
Between the drought and the politics, it feels like a desert on the inside, as well. Our reservoirs of hope are in a drought too. We’ve been assaulted with terror attacks, both at home and around the world. We’ve seen our police targeted and murdered. Everyone seems on edge and even minor conflicts quickly escalate to violence. Our words are sharpened and accusatory and we aren’t listening to one another. Like the desert, every step we take is dangerous. You have to be on guard against rocks and holes and even snakes. What used to be comfortable and lush and full of life and nourishment is a dry, thorny, unfamiliar landscape.
Some of us don’t let these rough times change their lives very much. They go about their routine as if they live inside a protective bubble. Others let what’s going on around them turn them inward. They withdraw and go quiet, rarely reaching out. It’s almost as if they’re hibernating until it passes. On the other end of the spectrum, bad times make some people lash out. Their tempers are short and anger becomes their go-to response. Don’t venture too close or you might find out just how angry they are.
I’m usually one of those bubble people. When the stress of bad times surrounds me, I typically let it bounce off. This isn’t to say that I’m not affected by it, but I don’t let it turn my world upside down. I’m the encourager, the glass-half-full one, the one-day-at-a-timer. But this summer has been hard. This hot, dry summer with all its shootings and murders and carnage both here and abroad—it’s been too much to bear. And then last week, an elderly French priest had his throat slit at the altar while he was celebrating Mass. Two young Muslim men who knew him, who lived in the neighborhood, murdered him in cold blood. The shock of this slaughter of an innocent old man was the last straw for me.
I know that Christ calls me to mercy and forgiveness. I believe that with all my heart. But right now, I just can’t do it. Not yet. Today everything feels dry and lifeless. God’s life-giving mercy, His ever-flowing stream of love seems like only a trickle in my heart. I feel like the parched, dry earth outside my window. I pray for the grace to forgive the terrorists, to comfort the cop-killer, to pray for those who are working for our destruction. But today, this day, Im struggling to accept that gift.
I know what our world has always been a hostile place. I know that evil always seeks to destroy the good and true. I know innocent people have always lost their lives at the hands of others. But right now I’m letting it get to me in ways that it usually doesn’t. I have faith that “this too shall pass”(surprisingly not from Scripture). I know that this broken world, and my own broken heart, are held lovingly in God’s hands and that His love will conquer. Right now, I’m in the desert, though. Our Lord and many of His saints saw value in time spent in the desert and I will, too. Prayer, fasting, and penance often transform drought into life-giving waters. That’s my prayer on this hot, dry afternoon. Dear Lord, send us Your peace. Amen.
“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.”