Week 2 of Advent | Andy Watts
Tuesday, December 11
Stories, according to the Apaches, are like arrows. They are told to us—or aimed at us—to awaken us to the experiences of others. Often they bounce away. Sometimes they penetrate us and we feel weak, real weak, like we are sick. James Youngblood Henderson writes:
You don’t want to eat or talk to anyone. The story is working on you now. You keep thinking about it. That story is changing you now, making you want to live right. That story is making you want to replace yourself. After a while, you don’t like to think of what you did wrong. So you try to forget that story.You try to pull that arrow out. You think it won’t hurt anymore. Even so, that place will keep stalking you (found in Justice as Healing: Indigenous Ways).
I remember driving across the arid bush land of South Africa after having spent several days in Cape Town. It was not unlike a drive I took with my family from Santa Fe to Abiquiu, New Mexico, near the land of the Apaches. This time, acacia trees stood in for mesquite trees and electric game fences replaced barbed-wire cattle fences. Now, as we drove to Botswana, our driver—a black South African—played South African gospel music. The artist was Rebecca Malope and the song was “Look at Me.” Accompanied by a reggae rhythm, she sang:
Look at me, O Lord, and hear my prayers. Restore my strength, don’t let me down.
When I hear this song I’m connected with the stories of evil suffered by many South Africans, perpetrated often in the name of God. I am connected with—if only partly and momentarily—the pain and joy of those stories. I feel sick and weak because of those stories. In despair over the condition of my place in this kind of world I echo the Psalmist:
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry;
do not hold your peace at my tears.
For I am your passing guest, an alien, like all my forebears.
Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more.
The stories of the truth of God’s love told by others are often painful and we struggle to remove those arrows. We want no reminders of our brokenness, like the Psalmist. Yet, without them, we will forget God’s love. Pierce me, Advent arrow!
Associate Professor, School of Religion
To download a digital copy of the 2012 Advent Guide, put out by Belmont’s School of Religion, click here.