“We still believe in prayer, and prayer changes things. It changes US.” -Reverend Norvel Goff On June 17th, a white man opened fire in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. (“Emanuel AME”) killing nine people including a pastor/state senator during an ordinary Wednesday Bible study. |
Something about this got me to thinking. In fact, I can't stop thinking about it, but not for obvious reasons.
Violent events occur so frequently now that most of us wish we could tune it out.
But if we pause and look this event right in the eye, there is a valuable lesson within it.
A lesson that might be, or could be, overlooked by some.
It was front and center by my view.
Just when one thinks enlightenment is not possible, the human race may be a failed experiment, that change is never gonna come … Oh No, It isn't ...
We are offered the opportunity to learn from the example of Emanuel AME church members, whose Grace is Amazing.
A man killed nine beautiful loving beings (who openly welcomed him) because:
“Somebody has to be brave enough to start a race war. I guess it will have to be me.”
He was not brave. There was no race war.
What happened was something he could never have anticipated. He was forgiven.
In some cases, immediate forgiveness, from family members of those he murdered.
Who does that?! And why? That cannot be real. Or can it?
Forgiveness is about the one who chooses to forgive, not the offender getting away with anything.
Forgiveness frees up and liberates the forgiver. Yet how often do we see people willing and able to step up after such deep loss?
We all have known people who held onto a grudge or grief, wearing it like a badge of honor over far less harmful or offensive acts than this one.
Yet that is only a part of the lesson.
Emanuel AME never missed a beat. The service on the first Sunday after the shootings was not canceled. It overflowed to the street and down the block.
It was a community gathered for the purpose of praise and gratitude. Expressed in song, dance and fellowship.
No fighting, no guns, no looting or burning of buildings.
No waiting, no whining, instead getting right on it, straight away, with the process of healing. Strength, resilience, seeking justice but also restraint.
The subject for the first Bible study after the shooting was “The Power Of Love”.
“God in his infinite wisdom said 'It's alright. I got the nine.'” Rev. Goff
There were still bullet holes in the walls.
In the Sunday sermon, Rev. Goff said “Some people expected us to do something strange, to break out in a riot or something. Well...they just don't know us.”
“Now don't get it all twisted. Its been tough. Its been rough. Some of us are downright angry. Some need a little time. But we know that God can sustain us. We will hold our elected officials and others accountable to do the right thing. Not only for us but for those still living on the margins of life.”
He went on to thank law enforcement (“Respect gets respect.”) the mayor, the people who supported the families who lost a loved one, all the flower arrangements...always using words such as “We are so deeply grateful, and we so appreciate.”
As I understand it, the Emanuel AME people consider funerals a home going celebration, instead of an ending.
That is why the church bells pealed instead of the usual ringing. Ringing is a customary call to worship. Pealing bells are reserved for coronations, weddings, or a celebration.
The call and response “Can I get a witness?” is an action that builds unity. It is used in children's rhymes, military cadence, eastern chanting, jazz, even hip hop.
That is what all those “Amen” “Come on” Hallelujah” and “Yes Sir” are about.
Now here comes the other lesson. The Big One.
The One most of us don't get, yet. The part that is beyond any doctrine or belief system. The giving of praise and expression of gratitude. This confuses some people.
Better to hit back or break legs.
Expressions of gratitude after irreplaceable loss are not superficial. Not at all. It has nothing to do with looking the other way or denial of grief and pain.
What may not be grasped is the profound transforming quality, which as I know from experience, is the direct route to being greater than your circumstance.
It is medicinal in application, divine in origin, miraculous, and deeply healing.
It is also a source of power. A form of push back, a resistance against the negative.
Sensei Morihei Ueshiba described the Akido martial art as the art of unifying with life energy, and a way of harmonizing spirits, “A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests nothing.”
Gratitude also redirects, subdues, and disarms unwanted energies, turning it back to its source.
Many do not know about, agree with or understand forgiveness and gratitude when you've been hurt, damaged or wronged.
Yet it is so very important in today's world.
Instead of striking out toward unjust events, we create and allow a vibrational space for change to occur, from within us. This is the important lesson.
The Big One.
This takes practice. Understanding, then practice.
You sort of have to apply this power in your own life in order to integrate it, though on rare occasions, it is revealed to us by those who carry it out in public.
So much is accomplished, so much opportunity for growth is offered to us by this highly evolved demonstration of faith by Emanuel AME.
Rising far above the New Age go-nowhere-teachings from speakers who have only philosophy to offer, falling way short on experience.
We have observed forgiveness in action.
We see the spiritual art of push back through praise and gratitude, as a trans-formative and healing force.
To think enlightenment is not possible is wrong
Charleston's Emanuel AME has shown us it is possible. The future might be full of possibilities.
To speak about forgiveness and gratitude is one thing. Then there is living it.
Will we apply this healing ability to ourselves, will share it with others,would we apply it to the world? Could we?
What if we followed the Emanuel AME example?
“ I will keep my remarks short today, acknowledging the summer heat, that is unless I see someone nodding off. In which case I will begin reading from Genesis – very, very slowly.” -Reverend Goff's opening remarks on the Sunday after the shooting.
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