In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord. “If I cause you the pain, I will not stop you from giving birth to your new nation,” says your God.
~ Isaiah 66:9 (NCV)
I happen to love the book of Isaiah. It feeds the poet in me, nurtures my hopeful longings while still laying down some serious boundaries between right and wrong.
In this passage, Isaiah states that every painful moment will yield something new. It reminds us that nothing is born without a struggle and without pain. These are important words for us to hear, as our nation is navigating through some very painful times. What is yet to be seen is how will we emerge. Will we be a better nation, a better people?
As individuals and as a society we fear pain, and much of what we do and much of what we pursue is rooted in that mindset. Medically, we have been trained to deal with pain as something that needs to be controlled and suppressed; hence, the emergence of a new branch of medicine, Palliative Care. Socially, I would argue in a much longer essay, a similar avoidance can be seen.
Isaiah offers a different perspective: pain is part of the process.
If we want change, it is going to hurt. If we want a better world and life, where everyone is treated fairly with equitable justice, the road will not be easy. If we want people to understand that previous words, behaviors and laws have to change, we have to understand it is going to hurt. Change is not easy. It hurts and people fear pain.
It hurts to know we have been wrong. It hurts to think we have been unknowingly complicit in something that is wrong or following a leader who is wrong. I think of the Germans who emerged from WWII having to admit they were wrong. I think of the southerners who enforced Jim Crow laws, and the institutions that upheld wrongful laws and years later had to own up to it. When I read those transcripts and see those videos the pain is evident.
Recently, a person I respect disagreed with me. I was told that my words have caused people to become upset, and that this was not necessary. I understand this opinion because it is rooted in the fear of pain. I wrote those words knowing I would cause some people to be upset. In the words of the great Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, I say “Here I stand. I can do no other.”
A new nation is waiting to be born, one where people will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. A new church is being birthed, one that welcomes all people into its midst. Let us not fear the pain. Let us be people of hope, knowing that God will be with us, fulfilling a promise for all of God’s people.
During these times of unrest, I pray for change; the kind that comes from the heart, so that we might become people who love one another with abundance.