Zebras scatter and flee, leaving the weakest and most vulnerable as lions’ prey. Elephants group together and defend the entire herd. We are too often zebras rather than elephants.
An accusation is made against clergy, politician, professor, author, journalist, coach, coworker, or colleague. Perhaps it is legitimate. Perhaps it was invented by a malcontent. Perhaps it was innocent. Perhaps not. We don’t know. We don’t care.
We flee and leave the accused to the lions, lest somehow we be negatively impacted. We hear one side of the story. We never talk to the accused. Rumors are repeated until they enter the public consciousness as fact. If such accusations and innuendoes have been covered up in the past, all the more reason to jump to the opposite extreme. Guilty without evidence. Guilty without proof. Guilty without even the opportunity to defend oneself.
False gods demand blood sacrifices. Person after person is sacrificed on the altar of accusation to preserve what really matters – the institution. Careers, families, and lives are destroyed. The roaring lions are satiated for only a very short time.
What if, instead, we acted like elephants and supported one another?
What if we carefully and fully investigated, heard all sides, and brought the parties together with the goal of reconciliation whenever possible?
What if justice were tempered with mercy and wrongs righted with forgiveness?
What if the innocents were exonerated and the guilty restored?
Wouldn’t that look a lot more like the Kingdom of God?
For us, one of life’s blessings is volunteering at a nature center dedicated to education. An expert in native and edible plants led a walk recently during which he taught me (among many other things) that thorny plants indicate land healing itself. Ohio, for example, was once 90% covered with old growth forests. By 1900, only 10% of the state was forested. Once cleared, some of the most productive farmland on earth was available to settlers.
Leave the cleared land alone and grasses will grow and meadows will soon fill with thorny plants of various kinds. Many have brightly colored berries that call to the birds,
“Eat me, poop out the seeds and spread us around!”
The thorns, on the other hand, broadcast a different message to animals:
“Don’t walk here and don’t try to eat us. You’ll be sorry if you do.”
Without animals chewing and trampling on things, box elder trees grow quickly, then give way to walnut trees, which give way to the mighty oaks of the mature forest. The land, once denuded, is healed and whole.
Native people inhabited this land for 10,000 years before any European set foot on it.
One cannot exaggerate the arrogance of European explorers and settlers who “discovered” and “claimed” the lands, then proceeded with campaigns of genocide, all in the name of God.
The native people knew the forests and managed the land with care. They understood the healing heralded by the thorns.
Thankfully, there are many of us who are coming to understand our proper calling in God’s world – ours is a stewardship to protect and care for creation. We are beginning to grasp the reality that we are a part of nature, interconnected with all living things. We are learning to garden organically, eat locally sourced foods, compost vegetation, and recycle. We are seeing the absurdity of scraping off topsoil and laying down non-native sod, and of eradicating those thorny “weeds” with lymphoma-inducing herbicides.
Many of us care about the air we breathe and the water we drink. We want our beaches to be free of oil. We want the nations of the world to transition quickly to sustainable energy so that millions won’t have to die in floods and fires. We are learning that the first task God gave humans in Genesis was to care for God’s garden.
As with nature, so with us. The interior person reflects the outer world with which she is systemically connected.
Some of my kin may have slashed and burned great forests to plant crops.
I cannot judge them.
I have slashed and burned relationships, opportunities, and talents.
I am the wounded field.
Thorns appear. Yes, and some fruit as well.
I tend to only see the thorns.
Hunger drives the cougar to the hunt.
The hot knife cauterizes the wound.
Though I long to be a mighty oak in the divine forest, I am reminded that God calls
the weak “strong,”
the less “more,”
the slave “master,”
and the poor “blessed.”
See us! Thorny weeds, one and all!
The Master is healing.