Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Broken and a Contrite Heart - Guest Post

I have written several pieces lately on the issue of violence, so when I received a newsletter from some friends of mine, written by the mother of one of them, I immediately resonated with the author's argument. She graciously allowed me to repost her article here for the benefit of my readers. I trust that others will find it as challenging as I did.

Jan Wood is the Executive Director of GOOD NEWS Associates. She is also an Associate with a ministry of speaking, writing, consulting and spiritual direction. She is the author of Christians at Work, Not Business as Usual and co-author of Practicing Discernment Together, Finding God’s Way Forward in Decision Making

Be sure to check out the organization's website at


Kudzu is a fast growing invasive species that snuffs out the plant life in its path. To folks’ dismay this plant that was originally imported to the US for its usefulness quickly covered everything in its path, covering roads, cars, trees and buildings and killing off other plant life by shading it from the light. It takes constant vigilance to keep it at bay.

Similarly, the national conversation after the Newtown school shootings have illumed that we Americans have become blind to and smothered by violence. Our national heart has been rightfully broken. We know that enough is enough. Things must be done. Yet the words, opinions, the self-justifications of every sector of our society pour over us like a tsunami. We feel both angry and numb. Broken and belligerent. Hopeful and helpless. But mostly helpless. This is so much bigger than any one of us.

The spirit of self-idolization and its ever-present servant—violence—has spread over and through our American culture muting and smothering the multitudes of individual goodnesses in the world.

The clinging vines of a violent, self-centered culture enwrap us all. They shape us. They enlighten us. They blind us. They shade us from the Light. Violences are pleasantly deceptive. There seems to be no direct connection between what we are immersed in and what we do. No direct connection between what we do and the pain we cause others. And we never notice that our souls—individually and nationally—have gradually become dimmed to the acute, unfiltered radiance of goodness and Light.

Changing a culture seems as impossible as trying to catch a cloud. Yet cultures are constantly changing. We have all seen this happen before our very eyes. As Americans we have cultivated a garden where violence is our ally and friend, our pleasure and entertainment, our safety and our inalienable right. It has become part and parcel of our worldview, our words and actions, and ultimately, our delusions. We have made all other lives and futures dispensable when violence suits our aims. And this part of our culture is destroying our souls, our relationships, our communities and our nation from the inside out. It is the kudzu of our souls.

There is something deep that is calling God’s people to the prophetic; a place of voluntary standing-with and repenting-for a deeply corrupted American culture. It isn’t enough to just try to be better than the culture. Deep compassion and broken hearts compel us to call out to God on behalf of our culture. As folks lustily call for their rights, their pleasures, their freedoms, their safety, their profits, let us simply stop. Stop inwardly justifying our own choices and sink into the broken heartedness that is called for. The list of what-everyone-else-should-and-must-do goes silent. In that space we can feel a deep well spring of repentance. A broken and contrite heart that simply collapses before God and cries out: “Oh God, forgive us!” We don’t know what to do. This is much bigger than us. Yet, we echo the Psalmist by praying

Create in us a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within us.
Cast us not away from thy presence
and take not thy holy Spirit from us.
Restore to us the joy of thy salvation
and uphold us with a willing spirit.

May it begin with us.

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