However, as a ‘minority’ white kid, I sometimes became the face of the enemy. In 1977 I attended a brand new school named Martin Luther King Middle. The week that the miniseries “Roots” was aired on television, I was attacked five times by angry black kids who blamed me for American slavery. I also suffered at the hands of a few racist teachers in the days when it was legal to spank children who forgot to finish their homework. My spankings tended to be much worse. In fact, one beating was so severe that it left me with deep bruises on my legs and backside. Yet, somehow, in the midst of all of that drama, I avoided becoming a racist. I didn’t hate black people. Somehow I was able to see that the major differences in people were not determined by the color of their skin, as Dr. King so eloquently puts it in his “I Have a Dream” speech, but by the content of their character. In the world that I grew up in, there were mean and evil and broken black people, and there were mean and evil and broken white people.
Once upon a time…far, far away, there existed a kingdom without a King, where everyone was safe. In this Land of Safe, no one ever grew sick or ill. And no one ever died. The people were never hungry, never desperate, never thirsty, never sad. In this Land of Safe, always beautiful, never ugly; always full, never empty, the lonely people lived – Safe from the pain of war; Safe from the pain of anger; Safe from the pain of loss…Safe from the pain of love.
For in its essence, the idolatry of safety is nothing more than the desire to be free from the suffering of love. And so this land – safe, secure, happy, and comfortable – was a land without the dangers of compassion. The people all understood that hiding was the only way to be truly safe and so safety stayed in fashion. They were kind but never close. They were nice but never near. During the day they encased themselves in cubicles. At night they locked their doors and hid inside their fear. When they traveled, they sealed themselves inside moving metal boxes. They talked to one another, but only through machines. They worked safe jobs. Washed in safe bathrooms. Kept their money in safe banks. They Hid inside safe houses, that were built inside safe walls, surrounded by safe fences, and locked inside safe gates. Marriage? Far too dangerous; Babies? Much too perilous; Families? Way too hazardous…inside the Land of Safe.
I cannot change the World
but it is in my Blood to Sweat and Toil and Try
To Work and Groan and Strain until the day I Die
Yet in these fires of futile striving, amid the anguish of my cries,
I find the World is much greater than my feeble fight to make it free.
So in defeat, with head bowed low, in broken pride and humble dust,
I recognize that God has made me not
to Change the World and make it just,
He’s made the World…
to change me.
In Mark 5:1-20 we have the beautiful and horrific account of Jesus’ love for a man who is possessed by a band of demons that defiantly refer to themselves as “legion”. Out of all the stories in the Bible, I feel most kinship with this one. Like the Gerasene Demoniac, Jesus has rescued me – a crazed, exiled, sweaty toothed, mad man. He has called me from the grave, given me a new name, a new life, and a new hope. Daily, he cleans me, dresses me, clothes me, and he puts me in my right mind. My love for this account and my identification with it, eventually led me to poetically revisit the passage from the perspective of the madman – whom I refer to as William. Because I feel that poetry is better heard than read, I recorded the poem with an instrumental soundtrack (nod to Braveheart). You can read the poem simply clicking the link below. Enjoy.
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