What Ferguson Taught Us: Setting My Heart to Hope
Ferguson broke my heart. Broke my heart in pieces … a trail of crumbs leading to a rose lined road. I left a piece of my soul on the pavement in Ferguson. And not because I wanted to. God ripped a piece of it as a remnant. A reminder of the work that still needs to be done.
“F … the police! F … the police!” Boom boxes blared. Men, women and children stood around doing—nothing. They protested with presence. Maybe that’s all they had left. Their stance, their eyes and the music that screamed “we’re fed up”. And half way down a double yellow-lined street, a makeshift memorial of stuffed toys and cards; a shrine to the boy who’d baptized the spot with his blood. Passersby stopped to take selfies, and a cocoa-skinned grandmother prophesied the destruction of Ferguson if a trial didn’t lead to conviction. And it just might. Because the people in this rally didn’t seem to care anymore and they think the world doesn’t either. I couldn’t resolve my compulsion to yell “wake up” with a soul-weary feeling of “Been there, done that. Here we go again."
Down the street at a faith-based rally, I met Teddy. He was 17. Country thick with a slow tongue, he told me he worked as a manager for the band on stage. At least 6’2″, this boy/man confessed he didn’t trust police officers. He would not seek their help if he found himself in trouble. He was afraid. And resigned to being that way. The gospel-themed lyrics and easy flow of the audience were a welcome respite from the angst-filled rally just down the street. But something was off. Jesus was missing. He didn’t seem to be part of the complacent gathering of religion soothed bodies passing out tracts. Instead, he seemed a drug delivered to pacify the people. I didn’t feel the power of His presence. The power that transforms.
The same street. Two rallies. More pain and confusion, more struggle and more anger than this block, this city, this world, can hold. The gospel, in that moment, didn’t cut it. It felt like more of the same: a come to Jesus band-aid with no plans for progress. And down the street, empty anger and words—all talk, no action. Faith without works. Dead. That death made me feel hopeless. Because it mirrored my frustration. I could stand with either side.
Ferguson made me uncomfortable.
We ironed out the gospel in church. Shook it out and smoothed it over the cracks on a table of grace at Wellspring Church. Looking at the congregation, peppered with white faces from a nearby church, Rev. Willis Johnson remarked how what he saw exemplified the unity we should strive for. And his message was simple. “Hold down your corner.” Remember that “going there” starts in your family and community. He urged us to help the hurt by remaining hopeful. And I cried.
Because I’d pretty much lost any of that hope on Saturday. I felt powerless. And powerless anger is pitiful, offering faith in a God I can’t see to heal the pain of a community crying for answers surrounding the death of a son. It felt like the coward's way out, but it was all I had. A broken prayer and redemption song, whispered low and soft.
Somewhere between black rage and the fervent prayers of my Christian faith lies redemption. Somewhere, clouds of peace swirl, the low pressure circulation that births a tornado builds. It’s violent and beautiful. Turbulent and terrible. A cry for shalom will rock the land. It’s gradual, but we’re building the force necessary to usher in the full power of His glory. Hope counts. Somehow.
Ferguson is a bridge of roses. A way over. Ferguson is a gate , one we’ll have to break through. Ferguson is a ladder, one we continue to climb.
Redemption is dirty and I won’t pretend I’m not in the middle of it. This time, hope looks like obedience. Willing myself to BELIEVE, setting my heart to hope … even when I feel otherwise.
I’m afraid to hope but still walk towards it.
I can help the hurt by staying hopeful. I can help the hurt by staying hopeful. I can help the hurt by staying hopeful.
Hi! I'm Lisha Epperson, a hopeful romantic, lover of Jesus and most things antique. I'm hooked on books (got the library fines to prove it) and all things ballet. I'm a happy wife and mother of 5 working out a life of faith with fear and trembling in New York City. I blog about it all at lishaepperson.com.
What Ferguson Taught Us About Hope
Last weekend, The High Calling and several others visited Ferguson, Missouri, to listen. We heard stories from pastors, police, and members of the community. All week, we are sharing what we learned from this experience in a bonus theme What Ferguson Taught Us, chronicling everything from our time with Capt. Ronald Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol to our time with people on the street.
" … hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:5
Featured image by Lisha Epperson. Used with permission.