This morning on my way to work out, I listened to an NPR story of a woman who is recovering from a stroke. She used to be in the US military in Afghanistan, and, while there, engaged with local people. She found poetry to be a beautiful entry point for understanding and conversation. Post-stroke, she is struggling to regain her language. Recounting the Afghani proverb, Qatra qatra darya maisha, she restated it, “A river is made drop by drop.”
I would imagine the pathway of justice for abuse victims feels a lot like recovering language after a stroke: slogged, laborious, and frustrating.
Imagining the river of justice can either encourage or discourage. Encourage, knowing the drops are making something of themselves together. Discourage, knowing how long it takes for drops to boil into streams, currents, rivers.
After battling a heavy weight of sadness last week, hearing more and more stories of predation recounted by strangers and people I know, I had to take a break from it all yesterday, resting from predator stories, waiting on God for rejuvenation. I had conversations with my daughters, processed with my husband. And today I’m feeling a little better about things.
Why? Because the drops seem to be moving from trickle to stream.
Holy momentum is rushing forward.
I’m reminded of these verses from Amos 5, especially as churches, missions organizations, and Christian establishments have, in the past, tried desperately to blot out the trickle. By their silence, silencing, and handling things in house for the sake of PR, they have denied justice to survivors of abuse. They resemble the idolatrous nation of Israel as God speaks these words over them:
It is the Lord who created the stars,
the Pleiades and Orion.
He turns darkness into morning
and day into night.
He draws up water from the oceans
and pours it down as rain on the land.
The Lord is his name!
With blinding speed and power he destroys the strong,
crushing all their defenses
How you hate honest judges!How you despise people who tell the truth!
You trample the poor,
stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent.
Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses,
you will never live in them.
Though you plant lush vineyards,
you will never drink wine from them.
For I know the vast number of your sins
and the depth of your rebellions.
You oppress good people by taking bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
So those who are smart keep their mouths shut,
for it is an evil time.
Do what is good and run from evil
so that you may live!
Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will be your helper,
just as you have claimed.
Hate evil and love what is good;
turn your courts into true halls of justice.
Perhaps even yet the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies
will have mercy on the remnant of his people. (Amos 5:8-15).
We are living in a similar time, but in this case it’s been ministries and churches in the name of Jesus who deny justice for those preyed upon. Yet I believe the tide is turning. I believe my little rain drop and his tiny rivulet and her trickle are, drop by drop, becoming a mighty river of justice.
I am not naive to think perfect justice exists on this earth. I cannot know the mind of every person in the middle of this turmoil. But I do know the One who does. And one day, all things will be made right, as the hearts of all are laid bare before His holy gaze. But in the in between time between the now and the not yet, God gives us the privilege to be his salt and light in this world. He empowers us to be His emissaries of truth-telling, grace-giving, winsome storytelling.
We tell our stories, and a drop of truth lands on the dry ground of indifference. The ground shouts back. Alone, that would be the end of the story. But another story is told, and another drop wets the ground. And another. Then another. And slowly, beautifully, powerfully, the stories carve a pathway through, and that pathway becomes a trickle where others with painful stories refresh themselves. Before long this trickle becomes a stream that heals the nations. And soon it is a powerful river of justice.
We see that here toward the end of Amos 5, how God wants to clean Israel of religious hypocrisy, saying one thing, but acting another way–in the opposite of God’s character which has always been to watch over the oppressed. Let these words terrify and encourage you, church.
“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:21-24)
Drop by drop, friends. Little by little. Story by story.
I’ll end with some encouragement to those weary of dropping their drops: don’t give up. Your drop is not inconsequential; it is vital.
The river forms.