Sticking It Out in the Storm
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
—Francis Drake (1577)
It’s 1992, at Emo’s in Austin. The opening act is the straight-ahead punk rock of DOA. The headliners: the Canadian math rockers, NoMeansNo. Hours of intensity, at high volume, in a packed, sweaty crowd. Like being in a small room at Cambridge, with Wittgenstein relentlessly lecturing, hectoring. Or like getting caught in an electrical storm. Then, without warning, it’s over. The lights go up, the crowd starts to thin, I think about going home. But the two bands come back, together, and of all unlikely things, begin to play a dopey, sloppy rendition of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” In that crowded room, everything changes. It’s the same walls, the same floor. The same crowd, same musicians. But the night is now morning. It is a party. Like a punk rock Pentecost, where there had been angst, there is now only joy.
As 2017 dawns, the Trump Presidency looms. For me, Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be to get ready, to get clear, and to pray.
I pray not for comfort, nor deliverance that would leave others to drown. A white man has choices that others do not. So, I pray to be disturbed, to stay awake, to stick it out in the storm—because I don’t want the cheap grace of self-gratification. I want what comes to those who stay out in the storm. The Spirit that races through and then fills the whole room. I want liberty and justice for all in my country. That will ask of me—and of many of you—the discipline of discomfort.
May we be found in the storm, through the night, trusting that, if we are faithful, if we don’t check out too soon, where there was suffering and sorrow, there will one day be joy. And that, after a long night, the morning will come.
God of our hearts, who is there in the silence but also there in the storm, make us instruments of Your peace, which is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice. Give us the patience and foresight to understand that weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning. Amen.