A contemplative response to public struggles

How do SoulStream Partners—desiring to live contemplatively in the world—respond to public struggles such as the recent crisis at Standing Rock in N. Dakota?

It’s not easy! It’s not just out there, far away. We have our own local painful struggles with the complexity of using fossil fuels and care for creation. The spill within the waters of the Heiltsuk First Nation is only the latest tragedy.

There has been an ongoing dialogue among some of the Partners provoked by these events. How do we pray these experiences? Especially when we represent disparate political and economic positions. We do not have the answers. We also embody in our own lives the very same kinds of breakage and violence that are evident in this tragedy. We are tangled with conflicting desires and feelings of hopelessness. It all seems overwhelming.

What are we to do? Do we judge and condemn and feel superior? Do we avoid and pretend that these are not our issues? We don’t have the answers, but staying silent is no answer either. So we would simply like to speak out some of the conversation we have been having as part of our prayer for the world and trust that it will resonate as God wishes.

Here are some of the comments that have been shared:

“as a native North Dakotan my soul groans deeply…DEEPLY.”

“I can’t locate God in this…My cry…“Christ have mercy!”

“I am so stunned by the violence that is being used against the demonstrators. I’m saddened by my own cowardice.”

“We all use oil…Is it possible for all the interest groups to sit down and come to agreement? It does not seem so. And I am deeply saddened by this.”

“I needed to be reminded this morning that the contemplative response asks me to look within…What would happen if I investigated my own reactions to situations like Standing Rock and used them as a way to investigate what’s going on in my own heart?”

“We don’t have the answers, but we are free in Christ’s love to lift up the various messes -that includes our own lives – offering them to the redemptive work of Christ. Jesus hurts for Standing Rock and for our own broken lost lives.”

One Partner, struggling with her own contemplative response, spoke for many of us when she commented:

“Situations like this often evoke a sense of hopelessness in me. I do my small part but it is pretty puny to say the least. God is here…and there…in the heart of the Native Americans who put their lives on the line to save the rivers, and streams and sacred burial grounds. And in the heart of those who work to bring natural gas, oil and gasoline to those who live in the cold northern States/Canada and need their homes heated, and their vehicles to go to school and work. There is goodness on each side. Just as there is evil and darkness on each side.

“My contemplative response to this is to grieve, as I suspect God is also doing. To pray, and hold, and try to see both sides. To work for peace in my home, my neighborhood and in my relationships. To continue to see the violence within myself, to pray for an open heart, to walk more and drive less, or drive instead of flying. To try and understand the First Nations in my neighborhood, or even just say hello. To acknowledge my own prejudice and negative attitudes and in the end to actually trust that somehow all things, my own violence and apathy included, shall be reconciled unto Christ. Can I be OK without fixing this? Can I be OK with my puny offerings?”

So what is our contemplative response?

It’s all over the map! We have a profound yearning for the ongoing health of creation as the expression of God’s living presence in our world.

It seems important to hold our deep longing for healing beyond conflicting ideologies.

It seems right to grieve with God; to look within and acknowledge our own inner brokenness; to have compassion for all sides (even if we disagree); to act local, and to offer love as we can.

And it seems real to give voice to our broken yet heart-felt prayers and to offer them as part of the cry for healing that is being raised by so many


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