Wounds and Blessings

It had been several years since I'd visited New York City. The sun collapsed into an orange ball behind the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan as my flight swooped by them, over the Statue of Liberty, and on past the Empire State Building to LaGuardia.

I can't view that skyline without experiencing a flood of memories from my time in East Harlem as a college student. Nostalgia and a little sadness overcame me—and regret that the passage of years has dulled some of my enthusiasm. I actually believed then that I could change the world.

Twenty-two years later, I was feeling weary. There's always a danger to agreeing in July to lead a retreat in February on hope. But I had assented to spend a weekend with Pax Christi Metro New York leading a retreat on "Hope for the Long Haul." As the plane touched down, I whispered to myself, "I hope these folks are prepared to be vulnerable this weekend." Not much was going to happen if it all depended on me.

My text that Friday evening was Genesis 32:22-31, the story of Jacob wrestling all night with the angel. I reflected that we seem to be in a wrestling time these days, a time requiring persistence and patience. Most of the people in the room had been to Central America in the '80s during the contra war; they had resisted nuclear weapons in the '70s during the Cold War; many had been active in the '60s in the civil rights struggle. Those times seemed like eras of high energy for resistance.

Often these days it seems that what is most required of us is a lot of waiting and serving and being present—to refugees and homeless people, to prisoners and battered women, to troubled children and dying folk. The people gathered in that room nodded in assent when I reflected that it's easy to feel isolated in our wrestling.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1997
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