Opening Thoughts for March 2009

A scene stays in my mind from the movie Dances With Wolves. Lt. John Dunbar was a white man. He became friends with a group of Sioux and went with them on a buffalo hunting expedition to gather food for the community. Before they found the herd, however, they found the carnage left by white hunters who had dishonored the animals and themselves by only killing for greed and sport, not for sustenance.

There was tension in the party, now. They kept riding. No one spoke. They acknowledged the grief of the terrible scene by not distracting each other from it with words. In his heart, he felt that he was seeing the acts of “a people without value and without soul”, “with no regard for Sioux rights”. He and everyone with him knew that what they were seeing was not the work of native peoples. What could he say?

His journey that day was to ride silently with those hurt by his own kind, feeling remorse without attempts to deny it, excuse it, or claim his own personal innocence. He didn’t ramble on about how not all white people are that way. Silence would demonstrate that better than explanations and defenses. There are some situations in which every denial uttered convinces your listeners one degree further of the opposite of your point. Silence is valuable, then. As much as I love words, words might serve to obstruct the justice of silence.

But my original point in starting to write all this comes from the next scene, when Dunbar is lying down to sleep that night, some distance off from where the Sioux are gathered. His thoughts: “It was hard to know where to be. I don’t know if they understood, but I could not sleep among them. There had been no looks, and there was no blame. There was only the confusion of a people not able to predict the future.”

Is confusion not one of the vines of grief? It tangles our feet and holds us in a place we would rather not be…until the movement of friends nearby invites our own struggle forward. The season of Lent has found us, now, in a confusing time, and we are unable to predict the future, and some of us do grieve losses. As you lean into your journey, may your movement be joined by the hoofbeats of friends who do not blame, but who have the grace of practical silence.

Published in: on February 24, 2009 at 11:59 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. A pastor friend of mine told me several years ago that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. The point being, there are times in life where faith comes into question. The question of not only HOW is God present in my life, but IS God present? This is natural thought as a result of our daily struggle. What is not natural is to never have doubt.

    Your point about confusion is well made. It is like a fork in the road. One path leads forward, and the other path leads backwards. Unfortunately, from the perspective of choosing a path, it is not clear which one leads forward. The critical point here, which you make very eloquently, is that this is where “friends nearby invite our own struggle forward”.

    Perhaps this is the lesson to embrace this Lenten season. Being a member of a faith community matters. It matters to you, and it matters to those around you. There will be times and opportunities for you to invite others forward, and there will be times when you will be invited forward. Now IS a season of invitation.

    Response from Steve:
    Great thoughts, Jeff! Since you wrote that, I’ve shared with more than one person the “opposite of faith (is) certainty” idea. Your point about the role of friends is a good expansion on my thoughts, too. Thank you for sharing all you do.

  2. Permission granted. Anytime.

  3. I’ve read this four times and still feel like I’m stumbling in my attempt to respond. What you’ve written here is powerful and inspires the “grace of practical silence” that you’ve so beautifully described. I’m glad you found time to share your thoughts. They’ve been missed.

    Response from Steve:
    Hi, Kimberlee. As always, thank you for your heartfelt reading and understanding of my occasional paragraphs. Please forgive my slowness in answering here, lately.

  4. It was nice to see your blog.Just Keep Writing!

    Don’t pay for your electricity any longer…
    Instead, the power company will pay YOU!

    Response from Steve:
    Thank you, Amber.

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