“…genuine grief and lament is a sign of repentance. Grief is the doorway to repentance. Without grief we will not come anywhere near comprehending the depth of the problem nor will we have a profound enough grasp of our need to repent. Unless we enter into that place of grief, it is too easy to just jump into solutions without having realized the depth of our sin. And if we haven’t recognized the depth of our sin, we will think that our lives are shaped by our choices rather than our habits and ever our addictions. It will be too easy to thing that if we just tweak our behavior here and there, things will change. And any solutions that assume our choices are the only problem will be shallow. “
(Excerpt taken from pg. 176, of Romans Disarmed, by Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh, 2019.)
We do confession and forgiveness at the beginning of most of our worship services in the Lutheran tradition. I see it as one of the most important parts of worship. Yet, too often I wonder if too many people just say the words without understanding what they are doing or saying. Has it just become a part of the service that we do without thinking about the importance of it? I don’t know.
I was drawn to the quote above because in my experience, there is great truth and wisdom stated. I see the need for grief in our current immigration system and how we treat immigrants. There is a need for repentance that goes far beyond the current debate and situation. We aren’t even touching the real issue around immigration – just a symptom.
As a nation, we have struggle with immigration since our founding and even before. Which is ironic given that we are nation made up of immigrants. Yet the cycle that persists is that one group of immigrants is devalued and treated poorly. After a generation or two, that group is considered to be a part of the culture and they in turn haze the next group of immigrants. And the cycle continues.
So much brokenness. Why do we insist on brokenness? Why do we insist on devaluing and dehumanizing any group of people? So we can think of ourselves as somehow better? Is that really what it’s about? Are we really that shallow and insecure?
If we ever want a better immigration system and treatment of immigrants, it will need to start with grief, just as the authors state. It will require for us to acknowledge that there is a need to repent and to change. Not in little things, but in habits of action and thought – changes in attitudes and worldviews. Until we can imagine a different world that what we currently live in, we will persist in our brokenness.
Immigration is not the only challenge that we face that is broken and requires us to grieve and repent and change. It just happens to be the hot topic right now. It is the topic that gets an emotional response from people. But like all things that cause an emotional response, it won’t last. It can’t. Emotion can only take a person or a culture so far until you are emotionally spent or distracted by something else that causes an emotional reaction.
There are other ways to handle immigration. But that requires imagination. Until we are willing to acknowledge how broken we are – to acknowledge the reality of where we are – we can’t begin to imagine how it can be different. In any journey there are two points that are most important – the starting point and the ending point. Knowing those two things allows you to craft the journey. Right now, we refuse to acknowledge our starting point and we have no idea where the end point is.