From Exile to Hope: What Does Love Look Like Today?

From Exile to Hope: What Does Love Look Like Today?

March 28, 2023

By: Rev. Cindy Hickman

I think the entire Easter event, the journey to Jerusalem, the Palm Sunday demonstration, the Last Supper, the foot washing, standing before Pilate, suffering, the cross, the tomb, and Easter morning, the whole thing is a story of love. If God is love, then the Easter Story is witness. 

With that in mind, I decided that this year every day during Lent, I would ask myself, “what does love look like today?” and go looking for answer. Lenten practices are easily forgotten, so I committed to posting my findings every day on my Facebook page. That would give me some accountability. People are watching. 

For the last 29 days I have been looking around for evidence of love. Some days it has been easy. A dinner shared with friends. The good medical care my grandson received when he cut his head. Memories of the heroes in my life: my parents, Barbara Jordan, Governor Robert D. Ray. The gift of an African violet. One day love was self-care on a yoga mat. One evening I stood on a ridge above the metro and looked out on how beautiful the city is and love looked like community. 

Some days have been harder. I’ve been hearing the stories of disaffiliation among our churches and feeling the pain of our division. Our state legislature is in session. I met with a legislator I disagree with. Love struggled to build bridges. One day a friend provided the daily post and described her love for her trans daughter and her rage against a hard-hearted world. 

Some days when love is disappointing, I wonder if evil is winning. Maybe this year the tomb will just stay closed, that big boulder blocking grace, Christ decomposing on the other side. 

Yesterday I was on my way to yoga when I spotted a sign that read “All-Inclusive” playground. I followed the arrows and found a beautiful playground with ramps and adaptations so that every child could play. It was clear evidence of love. I took pictures. I always include a picture with my post. 

“See Cindy? This is love.” A little glimpse of the promise of Easter. Yesterday love looked like compassion and inclusion. Love sounded like the laughter of children. 

While I was taking pictures of the playground, police in Nashville were responding to a shooting at a school. Six people were killed. Three of them were children just nine years old. Three were adults in their sixties. None were prepared for the violence they would face. All expected to go home at the end of the day to loved ones. Today love does not sound like the laughter of children. Today we hear weeping. 

News of the shooting spread across the country. Yet another mass shooting. We are shocked by the loss of life. 

And just as shocking is how numb we have become to them. We offer our thoughts and prayers, but our thoughts fade quickly in an amnesia/denial fog. (“Thank God it wasn’t my child’s school.”) Sincere prayer should lead to action, but there has been no meaningful action on gun violence. If we cannot protect the next generation, we are a failed society.  

We ping pong the issue of gun violence back and forth between mental health and gun control. Any real solutions die in the gap between. A few months ago, I talked with a high school student. He described the frequent lock downs at his school. The students never knew why they were going into lock down or when or what might happen. He said it was scary. The frequency and the uncertainty kept the students in a constant state of anxiety. The potential for violence creates mental stress. Pointing to Mental Health is a false reactionary response to gun violence. Gun violence and Mental Health are both serious issues and both require a response. 

And we Easter people can ask where is love? What does love look like today? Maybe love is like Wisdom in Proverbs 1:20-2:15 crying out in the streets hoping someone will listen to her and will seek the knowledge and understanding God offers. (Open your bibles and read her words today.) 

If you want to know more about gun violence, these two resources can be helpful.  The Gun Violence Archive keeps a record of the daily gun violence in our country.
The Violence Project has researched gun violence and offers insight into why it happens.

When we know more, maybe we can do more. 

In order to address gun violence we will need the breadth of love: courage, compassion, grit, humility, defiance, tenacity, truth, forgiveness, justice, listening, strength. It’s a big ask. Are we capable of doing hard things? Can sacrificing for the greater good be more important that self-interest?

Today as I ask my Lenten question, it is clear that love requires participation. If we trust in Easter, we will need to put our shoulders to that boulder and help open the tomb. 

What does love look like today? Today love is looking at us.

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