How Long, O Lord?

Glenda Simpkins Hoffman 6/21/20

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On Friday noon I took part in the Racial Reconciliation prayer meeting on Zoom that many Great Banquet people and others are participating in. That evening I attended the Juneteenth Rally for Remembrance at First Baptist Church. Those present at both of these events were reminded of the historical significance of this day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It dates back to 1865 when the Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

I was grateful for the words of speakers and the participation of many at both events. It was good to see the signs and hear the crowd proclaiming “Black Lives Matter.” It’s good to see people caring about racial injustice. I hope this will be a turning point for us as a nation. ‘

But of all the good and inspiring words that were shared at the rally that evening, it was written not spoken words that pierced my heart. A black woman held a sign that said, “I can’t stay calm. I have black kids.” A black man wore a T-shirt that said, “Don’t shoot. I’m just running.”

I’m white, so I don’t have the personal experience of racial injustice that so many black brothers and sisters do. I don’t know what it is like to be judged by the color of my skin. But I have two adopted African American boys who are now young men, so I’m very much in a time of disorientation and lament—sadness for the pain suffered by so many for so long, anger at the systemic racial injustice that has persisted and the resistance of some to acknowledge and address it, and absolute fear for the children God has given me and whom I love with all my heart.

I’m grateful for corporate opportunities to hear others name what is wrong in the world and to pray for God’s help in showing us how to participate in his work to make things right. Sometimes it’s hard to find words to express my own feelings, so I’m also thankful for being in the psalms of lament this week as they are helpful in expressing sadness, anger, fear, confusion, and the breadth of emotion that are appropriate in the face of trouble and injustice. How long, O Lord? How long will this sorrow and pain persist?

And I am finding the words of others very helpful in giving me words to pray. Today I share a prayer by Rev. Prince Rivers, senior pastor of Union Baptist Church in Durham Salem, who recently shared his lament offered from within the black community:  

A Prayer of Lament for Those Who Cannot Breathe

Holy God, a cloud of grief hangs heavy over my head and I feel like I cannot breathe, so give me the strength to pray. I raise my hands toward the sky and I lift my eyes to the hills which is where my help comes from. Lord, when the names of people who have been choked, shot and assaulted is too many to count, I know that not one soul has been forgotten by mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, cousins and friends. They remember…

…laughs and smiles,

…dreams and struggles,

…talents and personalities.

Now these men and women are gone. Father, how long must we listen to the cries and screams as blood stains the sidewalk? How many videos must we watch before we begin to see a change?

Help me, God. Help us. Help the people of St. Paul, MN. Help Baton Rouge, LA. Help our nation. Help us examine ourselves. Help those of us who are sad and angry not to let these deaths be in vain. We do not pray for vengeance, but we do thirst for justice. We hope for healing between neighbors and officers called to protect and serve. We long for the day when young men will live long enough to be old men and parents will not have to say ‘good-bye’ too soon.

My hope is in you, God. Deliver me from all my fears. O God, come quickly to help us. O Lord, come quickly to save us. In the name of the one who came that we might have life and have life more abundantly. Amen.

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June 21, 2020
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Philip Covell
Philip Covell
15 days ago

Thank you, Glenda, for relating this psalm to our current situation.