“They wanted to put down roots,” my priest said,
referring to the Israelites wandering in the desert,
and suddenly it all made sense.
My eyes had glazed over the litany of fruits and vegetables
for which the wandering Israelites cried out,
their tongues parched from years of manna
as on and on they journeyed
from one life to another…
but now my eyes were opened, and I saw…
The Israelites were not just longing for new tastes…
they wanted identity.
Gardens, roots, stability, home,
all that comes from being settled.
They had been completely uprooted,
from the slavery of their past
but also from their homes and routines.
In their wandering state,
they did not yet know who they would become.
Anxious and unsettled,
they could not yet recognize their guide,
leading them through the wilderness,
As Love’s own self.
This resonates with me.
I feel like our nation has been uprooted
And we’re flailing around unmoored
in a post-truth wilderness…
Or maybe we’re digging our roots too deep
into the trenches of partisanship and rigid ideology,
while hate and vitriol
fly across the no-man’s-land
in the widening chasm between us.
If we dare to bridge the distance,
we get caught in the crossfire,
so most of us hunker down in the trenches
so we can’t truly see each other anymore.
What if Love uprooted us,
yanked us suddenly from comfort zones,
guided us through the daunting wilderness
to something wonderful and new…
My thoughts turn to the Gospel now,
and Jesus said:
“If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off…
If your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out…”
And I think, we must sacrifice our perfect image
to make sure we don’t hurt others.
For it is better to lose something of who we are,
or who we think we are,
than to continue being enslaved
to cycles of violence that self-perpetuate
and are never quenched.
Last week I watched a man
tethered so tightly to his image
that even when the mask fell
he insisted it was still his real face…
He wanted to look cool in high school,
so he cultivated an image of a womanizing, drunken jock;
he wanted respect as an adult,
so he denied his high school image.
He wanted to be righteous,
So he painted in shades of superficial piety,
a picture he wanted others to see…
If your image causes you to sin…
But I had to be honest with myself,
about times I have wanted to show others
who I want to be
instead of the warts-and-all real me…
I heard from so many women
telling their stories
straining against chains of shame
that still tether them
to the toxic good-girl image
that lies and tells us it’s our fault
when others take advantage of us…
And I consider
that twists perceptions
so that black men and women are shot
without charge or trial,
Latinx people are told to “go home,”
and Muslims are painted as terrorists…
All because false images
poison our national conscience…
I further reflect
on all the people hurt, displaced, killed,
by our false sense of exceptionalism
that tells us we are righteous
when we humanely invade
I think of all the lies
built on fear
I think about the lies we tell ourselves
That we are better than others
Or worse than others…
I think of the pain
all because we measure who we are
over and against others,
and because we are entrenched
in prejudices and power dynamics
that twist the truth.
The truth is that we are made in Love,
but we are afraid of others and ourselves
And we build up images to hide our flaws and vulnerabilities….
And so much of what roots us in our communities and cultures,
gives us room to grow but also traps us
in expectations, and boxes, and false ideas that limit who we are
and who we see our neighbors to be.
And Jesus said: “The truth shall set you free…”
The Truth will be a great uprooting.
I think again of the man, letting go of the image
he tried to cultivate,
and finding mercy beyond the box
he tried to fit himself into…
I picture myself doing the same thing…
I visualize all the women
breaking their chains,
refusing to be enslaved to lies…
I think of the lies unraveling so no can be ensnared ever again…
I imagine boundaries of prejudice and bigotry shattering,
invisible walls of greed crumbling,
divisions between rich and poor falling away…
All the people sharing all the world…
I yearn for a distant day
when we finally see the tear-stained faces
of others far away
and our warrior hearts break open
and we beat our swords into plowshares…
I picture the whole world being turned upside-down,
As people, communities, nations,
Cast off false images and throw them away.
I think of the inevitable fear that will grip us
as we let go of all we think we are
And I see Perfect Love casting out our fear,
as we wander through the uncertainty
into a world we have never known
where Love can build us anew,
Uproot us, Lord.
Shake the flimsy foundations of lies beneath us,
and make us fall
away from our false selves
into the open arms