We are nearly four weeks into 2020, the time when new year’s resolutions may be starting to fade, and I, for one, am already feeling a bit weary, and it seems much too soon for that. In the few short weeks that have marked the new decade, there’s been loss – a plane crash in Iran, a helicopter accident that took Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that has already claimed dozens of lives. There’s been transitions in our personal lives – for me, a move to a new home in San Diego, a farewell to a dynamic boss, and a two-foot jump back into intensive counseling twice a week. In a year that I am choosing to press into Shalom, this skidding start into 2020 makes it seem a bit presumptuous to be seeking the elusive concepts of peace, wholeness, and making wrong things right.
But amidst the craze and the temptation to succumb to it, I am grateful for the countercultural humans. I am grateful for the ones who are brave enough to simultaneously admit that the world is dark and so painful while also declaring that goodness is still – even here – within our reach. These are the ones who choose to lean in and participate in making the spaces and places and people around them a little more peaceful, a little more whole. I am privileged to know a tiny, subversive army of quirky individuals who are boldly making things better for all of us, and as we have begun 2020, I have been trying to process the recent loss of one of them: my former boss, Rick Love.
Rick was the kind of man who lived with radical vision: a world where Christians and Muslims are friends, where enemy lines are erased through the disarming nature of friendship, where intercultural celebrations lead to world at peace. His very life embodied this peace, this Shalom, in a way that had you believing it had already been achieved on a global scale. In every interaction, he instilled within you the deep understanding that you are valuable, that you play an irreplaceable role in the trek towards making the wrong things of this world right again – regardless of where you live, what language you speak, or what religion you choose or don’t choose to claim.
If Rick were to walk through the door now, you’d be struck by his ability to envision a better, more whole reality. You’d catch a glimpse of his wild imagination that allowed him to see the world as it could be, rather than as it is now; the imagination that propelled him forward in active anticipation that he would see, know, and partake in the peace that Jesus has promised us. Even towards the end of his life, as he was going through rigorous treatments for an aggressive form of cancer, he never lost sight of what could be. His life of living largely different than the predominant culture continued to amplify the questions: What does it look like to encourage and walk alongside others as they find their own wholeness? Are there areas where we have grown too comfortable, where our unchallenged beliefs and lifestyles are contributing to division rather than reconciliation? And how can we actively build bridges and usher healing with our everyday, ordinary, routine lives?
It’s been overwhelmingly tempting to just throw my hands up in defeat, accepting that the world will continue to kick and bruise us all with its unruly propensity towards decay. But then there are the legacies of those who’ve gone before us – like Rick Love, Rachel Held Evans, Harriet Tubman – and those who are still leading us – Desmond Tutu, Sarah Bessey, Bryan Stevenson – that beckon us to go past our immediate reality and ask the hard, necessary, beautiful questions: How do we love fully anyway? What could the world look like if we cheered each other on, came around the dinner people with people who don’t look and think like us, and showed up (really, tangibly, actually showed up) for each other when the loss is just too much to carry on our own?
I’m still learning how to ask the questions, how to move past the fear and paralysis into a healthy engagement with all that is wrong in an audacious attempt to make it right again. But in the learning and the waiting, in the trying and the failing, I am grateful. I’m grateful for the people who have been afraid, weary, and alone and have pressed on anyway. I’m grateful for the life of peacemaker and leader, Rick Love, who proved that a big vision and a deep faith can, in fact, manifest Shalom in the here and now, for both those in his immediate circle and for people all around the world. I’m grateful for all of the revolutionary humans who are walking, breathing reminders that Jesus isn’t finished with us yet; that he is moving among, in, and through us to manifest his Shalom in our present, tangible reality, not just in a distant heaven that we might arrive someday. And I am striving to be one of these humans who lives with an unshakeable conviction that peace and wholeness are within our reach, if only we have the wild imagination to envision them.