75 people came together last evening at Redeemer to make space, to carve out some silence in the midst of a noisy, disorienting two weeks created by the Supreme Court nomination process, to share pain and hope and rage, to pray. We followed the practice of a Quaker meeting, speaking out of the silence in response to the Spirit quaking within, believing as one person said “that God is in everything” and so, in everyone. Because we are Episcopalians, we started with a hymn, and I heard the lyrics in a way I’d never heard them before: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty.” Politics feels very narrow right now… partisanship constrains us, paints us into corners, threatens to break old relationships, even within families… but mercy is the true measure of righteousness, the lyric said to me. Kindness is at the center of justice. The wideness of God’s love calls us as surely as the ocean meets the shore.
Several people wrote to tell me they were nervous about the gathering, and I admitted that I was, too. “I’ve got a pit in my stomach,” said one as we began. For me the anxiety turned on the seeming competition between women’s voices and men’s voices, and more pointedly, between the testimony of a sexual assault survivor and the testimony of a man defending his record and reputation. I’ve spent some time putting myself in Dr. Ford’s shoes, praying for her capacity to speak the deepest truth, giving thanks for her dignity and courage. I knew Judge Kavanaugh in college—he was a freshman when I was a freshman counselor, and we lived in the same dorm—and so I’ve been interviewed along with many from those days about what we knew and what we saw. I have spent some time putting myself in his shoes, praying that he can speak the deepest truth within him, praying that he can have the courage to stand for women in a society that still privileges male voices, to stand for every survivor of sexual assault, to speak with those who have been silenced by shame and circumstance, to be a man for others as he pleads his case. Mercy is the true measure of righteousness. Kindness is at the center of justice.
I don’t know what I expected last evening’s gathering to be, but it was a revelation in the truest sense. For an hour we shared with each other our deepest selves. The silence held us as person after person offered a wideness of vision that was paradoxically rooted in some narrow and intense pain or loss. We offered our frustration and our kindness and prayed for hope and change. It was gut-wrenching and beautiful, at once, to trust each other in this way, to hear how rare such honesty is right now in other parts of our lives, and to witness that even decades-old wounds can know healing. The difficulty of a very public debate called us to honor something very profound within each other and ourselves.
We ended by singing these words: And when human hearts are breaking under sorrow’s iron rod, then they find that selfsame aching deep within the heart of God.
Deep listening and wide loving, especially in the narrowest of corners, will help us find our way.