There’s been much news traffic and social media hubbub about this latest story.
A shootout a block from the church where Paul and I served for 18 years. Guns firing a block from where we lived, up until 3 weeks ago, and were raising our children. We now live four blocks away from where this latest incident happened. Still a stone’s throw. Too close. Multiple houses and vehicles shot up. A water distribution site on lockdown. It’s unacceptable.
But here’s the thing. This is NOT new. This is NOT uncommon. For those of us residing in this neighborhood, it’s just another day. This incident was the fourth in one week’s time where shots were fired in these streets. Fourth. In 8 days. Wednesday to Wednesday. Every other day, on average, bullets rang out around us.
Last week, 15 - 20 shots broke the silence in the middle of the night. You know what makes that kind of racket? Automatic weapons. I was jarred awake. Heart racing, I lay still waiting to hear if one of our children would call down their familiar question: “Mom, were those gunshots?” “Mommy, how do you know I am safe?”
Do you know the anguish a parent endures when they can not realistically tell their anxious child there is no reason to fear? Do you know the injustice of living where the safety of your own home is in question at any given moment? Do you know the anger that builds when you invest everything you are into a community just to learn that teenagers are responsible for the latest terror? Teens. Not yet twenty years accumulated.
And the anger morphs to heartbreak as I wonder if any of these young men have been fed at the church? Are these youth whose smiles have warmed my heart or who’s friendly wave greeted us on the street? Are these armed teens ones that my children have played pick-up basketball with in the parking lot?
My God, have mercy.
Drive these streets during the day and you might be tempted to think it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Children playing outside. Tulips blooming. Yards mowed and trimmed. Long-time residents taking pride in their property. Neighbors keeping their eye out for one another. Sometimes it only feels like an illusion.
Look a little closer and you might see something different. Those children are often unsupervised. There are a plethora of blue ADT security signs. Litter is prevalent. There are some bars on windows. Some houses falling into disrepair. The encroaching danger has arrived.
I can lure myself into thinking it will all be okay. That the residents who love this city, my family included, will keep fighting, and advancing, and making progress. But let me be really honest here…
When you spend your days unable to drink the water that flows from the tap,
and wash your vegetables with bottled water,
and city officials seem more interested in building a name than replacing pipes.
When your backyard never feels completely safe,
and you're tempted to give in to the stereotypes and prejudices deeply rooted in our country,
and helicopters hover above your streets with searchlights like an action movie come to life, and the nights are filled with the expectation of gunfire…
after a while you just get tired.
Yes, that’s right. Damn tired.
This is not what Jesus desired - for my family or for those teens who choose to settle disagreement with a .45 caliber weapon. The heart of God is breaking for the people in the city of Flint and the residents of Glendale Hills - regardless of their skin color, income level, marital status, or educational background.
Our everyday reality is not a reality that should be tolerated or accepted. And sometimes, for those of us who live in the middle of it, we just grow weary. Sometimes, we need to know there are others fighting against the darkness too. That we aren’t alone. That light really does win and fear won’t conquer love.
And if you are more upset about the fact that I, a home-educating mother and ordained pastor, used the word “damn” then you are about the fact that guns are an everyday accessory in our streets, then the problem is even bigger than I thought.
I want the Kingdom of God to reign on Mann Avenue, in the houses on Coventry, in the activities of Sunset Hills Apartments, in the homes of friends who have moved into this neighborhood to contribute to the light. I want the Kingdom of God to reign in my heart, even when my weariness is strangling out hope.
I want you to be enraged. My dear friends, with their sweet children, want you to care enough about their safety to offer more than empty words. My neighbors, who host their grandchildren each weekend, want you to fight so this present darkness will not remain the norm.
Because sometimes, citizens of the kingdom and residents of Flint, just get damn tired.