I came across this image today as I sipped my (heavenly, wonderful) coffee in my warm bed with cheery Christmas lights bringing joy. The morning outside looks like someone threw cold water in a volcano — fog steams up everything, making only the spindly outline of wintery trees visible against a pinkish cloud of curiosity. A forlorn train whistles from the tracks in my wee village, and I feel content. I read these words from Cormac McCarthy, “Between the wish and the thing, the world lies waiting.” and I ponder the significance of these words. But my sleepy-as-yet-uncaffeinated-eyes can’t quite make out that last word in this picture — waiting or wailing? Oh, that is the question, isn’t it?
Because while I am feeling myself to be in a fog of contentment, on the other side of the haze of my little worldview, there is troubling news. A massacre in Peshawar, where at least 126 people, many of them children, have been killed by the Taliban. Talks of justifying torture to get the bad guys which sounds very much like the rhetoric of extremism to me. A shooter on the loose in Pennsylvania. The FBI investigating the hanging death of an African American teenager here in North Carolina. A local woman complaining that someone keeps stealing wreaths off of her husband’s and her brother’s graves. And then I think that, yes, between the wish and the thing, the world indeed lies wailing. Wailing in all of these places and more. And waiting for the wailing to end.
And somehow, these two worlds merge — the one where I contentedly sip hot coffee made with clean water using my (unnecessary) extra Christmas lights in a heated home with electricity, and the one where mothers wake this morning with wails that children have been lost. The world where God wails, as our ability to see others as human beings and hold ourselves to the high standards of justice and democracy crumbles in the face of desperation and fear. The world where a thoughtless prank stirs up old wounds and makes grief even heavier in these dark winter days. If the incarnation means anything, it means God is a part of this world, and so are we.
These worlds merge in the waiting and the wailing, as I dare hope that God will not leave us to our own devices, but will inspire new life, lifting the fog of our self-focus long enough for us to see who’s on the other side, desperate for news of a better world. So, I pray:
Lift the fog, O God, between us and them. Help us to hold the waiting and the wailing together, until you come and wipe every tear from our eyes, watering instead a tree of life with leaves that will heal the nations. Forgive us if we have waited in such a way that silences the wails of others. Forgive us if we have wailed without the hope that you will never abandon us. And come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen.