“I endorse any religion of love,” said the woman in her shop. “World peace is my fantasy.”
Funny. She didn’t seem to have any sort of peace herself. Still, she claimed to be its ambassador.
A lover of peace who had not yet laid claim to it in full. She dallied in the shallows.
“Love your God with all your heart and soul,” stated the speaker. “Not your neighbor.”
When I left the conference for the outskirts of the city I started listening.
“I used to be so mad at men. First my father molested me, and my first husband wasn’t much of an improvement. I’d see one when I was walking home and I’d be ready to slug ‘im.”
“Anyway, one day I met a friend who knew a psychiatrist. I went to see the psychiatrist to figure out what to do. My second husband was a good man but I was still mad at my father.”
“You can imagine what all it looked like, an 84-year old woman yelling in the woods at her daddy. It was an empty chair, ‘cause he was dead, but there I was in the woods crying and all.”
“That’s what the psychiatrist told me to do. Just go out in the woods and holler. I did, and it helped. I was so mad. Mad, and I still loved him. He was a talented musician, he really was.”
“I have had a lot of trouble. My daughter died, and now my stepdaughter is sick. I had cancer in the esophagus. I am ready to have a good life. I know I’m old but I want to have a good time.”
I am convinced I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
The woman nodded.
“God’s grace got me this far and it’ll keeping carrying me on!”
Two women, two shops, two narratives. The fantasy of peace and its fulfillment.
I sit thinking and wondering, despairing of ever helping anyone, ever.
I give myself over to God, but what does that do? I cannot give life. Only God can give life.
I can plant a seed. I can nourish. I can encourage growth.
But I am helpless. I think of what my five-year-old nephew calls the ‘hurricane circle of hell’.
Has he got more of an idea of hell than I have? Probably. Where is my urgency?
Americans like to think hell does not exist. They want mercy without justice. Lawless love.
There is no peace without travail. Not on this earth. And people are going to hell. We all are, or would be, but for grace. God, help.