"Let all those be put to shame and confusion
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who desire my hurt." - Psalm 40:14
Weeks ago I sat in a chilly gymnasium on wooden seats crowded with clergy. We were the ones with the resources quickly available to allow us to show up for a call to the likes of us saying: Please: Stand with Standing Rock. And stand we tried. But the winds were strong. Our guide in this Lakota land offered a word. Take off your gloves. Pull your hands out of your pockets. And look at your hands, at your fingertips. In the U.S., the patterns on your fingers identify you in case there's a crime. But to the Lakota, those patterns tell the story. They show us how the wind was blowing the moment you were born. And that wind means everything.
Maybe there's a freedom to knowing that the people who have the most power to affect my life might possibly be seeking my extermination. Maybe it's helpful to know, quite clearly, that my right to live, breathe, thrive, make my own choices, proclaim the love of the God I know intimately, identify my own partner, wear my own skin, exist with non-male parts could serve to compromise my position in church, life and state. Maybe that is helpful knowledge. Why? Because it clarifies my life's mission in this moment and at this time.
It is January. This is not one of my favorite months, owing, mostly, to the bitter winds that assault my exposed face on my longer walks in the city.
Wind often feels like an enemy. As I walk my toddling daughter, fastened safely in her stroller, I worry that the wind will be too much for her as I try to coax her back into her hat and mittens. Wind threatens her security and comfort. It might make her sick.
I want to know the wind. Because I want to know how to change it. I want to know, in an onslaught of negativity, of nationalism that would call my right to exist or to thrive into question, that such hot breath is not the only wind that is possible. I want to take the power of the wind blowing at the moment of my birth, I want to see my palm and to know it, and I want the hand that holds those fingerprints to be: powerful.
Maybe the forecast calls for winds that would dominate me, "desire my hurt," "seek to snatch away my life." Maybe we are in a time when the tales of the Bible, the cries of the Psalmist in lament, seem acutely familiar. Maybe there's a freedom in being this close to God.
Let this be a time when we change the wind, with the help of God. For God's sake. Amen.
Small Group Discussion
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Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.