Before Baltimore 


I am like you. 

I am horrified.

I am watching images on the screen, shaking my head and murmuring, “tsk tsk tsk” and offering opinions about what I think of this horrendous show of violence on the streets of Baltimore.  Not unlike scenes in midwestern towns in months past, this outward display of atrocities against humankind as protest of perceived injustice.

And so it comes to this.  I am tempted to say, “Look how low we have sunk!”  I’m tempted to rail against whatever I think is to blame – government policies I abhor, political persuasions with which I disagree, ignorance and selfishness and entitlement and plain ol’ stupidity.

But it really isn’t anything new, now is it?

Historically, riots and rages and wars and crusades have always been the way of man, waging one kind of war or another against governments, religions, ideologies and perceptions that we as humans don’t like.  Many were honorable conquests, rising from defense of the weaker people, or defending the noble and lofty calling of freedom and democracy.  But many are like the streets of Baltimore this morning.  Senseless, warped, barbaric and maddening.

I’m sitting here in my office, coffee in hand, safely ensconced in the heart of suburbia, clicking my tongue and calling them stupid.

And then it hits me.

I’ve waged senseless wars, too.

No, I haven’t rioted in the streets of Tomball, starting fires at Daily Donuts on the corner because I vehemently disgree with our school district’s absentee policy.  I come from the deep South, and had a gentle Southern upbringing, and I’ve never thrown a brick through a window.  I’ve been blessed enough with heritage and hopefulness that I’m able to control such urges.

But I have created my own kind of war waging.  I’ve been hard, judmental, unfeeling and unapologetic.  I’ve defended my position without thought for the feelings of the other.  I’ve lied to myself about my own culpability in the failure of my marriage, the struggles of my son, and the financial difficulties that have plagued me in the past.

I lived in a glass house.  And I’ve thrown stones.

You would have loved my glass house.  It was  beautiful.  It looked just like I created it – with lofty ceilings of my own overstatements, grand sweeping staircases of pretense about how small and afraid I really felt.  Luxurious draperies of insecurity and glamourous furnishings of defensiveness – ahhh, yes, it was a glorious disguise.

And as time and turmoil and the blessed truth would have it, the glass house has been demolished.  Somebody finally threw a stone back. 

Oh, it made me mad.  I was furious that someone dared doubt my story – my elegant facade, my pretty phrases and awkward pretense.  But somebody did, bless them, and I’ll be forever grateful.

God in His all-knowing and unfathomable love knew that what I am in Him is more than enough.  Gently, tenderly, but firmly, he continued the work of the rock-thrower, and decimated all my decorations.  I am stil learning, but I can now see that I have been the rioter in my heart – raging and furious inside against circumstances, disastrous results of things I have done, things that have been done to me.  I’ve been trying to show up and smile and pretend it wasn’t there – the hurt, the disappointment, the wrong, the mistakes.

Putting the lovely phrases aside – I was putting lipstick on a pig.

Funny thing about that glass house – most people can see right through it anyway.  And the ones that love you can see you through your own smoke and mirrors, and they throw the rock to break away the barrier, because on the other side of the pain of the breaking is beautiful and blessed promise.

God is the ultimate peace – the peace maker, the peace seeker, the peace giver – but not peace at any price.  Peace that comes with truth.  The truest peace comes when the anger and the protest is all gone – and we surrender. 

There isn’t much that I can do about the streets of Baltimore this morning.  I can’t bring calm and soothe the fevered masses. 

But I can tell the truth about myself again today – and offer myself humbly to the Father in His mercy, who gives me a fresh batch of them every single morning.  Bless Him.  Many days I’m out of fresh mercies by 9:00 a.m.

I can live surrendered.  I can be here if you need me.  I can help you with that glass house you’ve got, if you want.   I’ve got some leftover stones.

~Alane Roberts