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A bumpy witness

by Elizabeth Hunter

I often use my crochet hooks on the rifts and unravelings of our family’s sweaters. I reknit tree-climbing snags, caught-on-a-nail rips and Mom- I-don’t-know-how-that-got-so-big, finger-shaped holes. My loop-by-loop repairs follow the yarn’s path in the most natural way possible, using what is already there. The work isn’t invisible, but it is strong. 

Now slightly rough areas are places my fingers go to worry and remember. Every bumpy scar or knot is a witness. Throwing these sweaters away would have been easier, though more costly. My fingers trace the Holy Spirit’s Braille-like messages on my child’s shoulder, along the side of my shawl, breathing truth into my stubborn brain: This, too, can happen. This, too, is real. 

Sometimes conflict can feel like a deep betrayal, when in the unraveling of our relationships we lose our way. During these times, it’s helpful to remember that God’s gift of new life “does not shield us from the messiness of congregational life and human relationships,” Bible study author and Lutheran pastor Angela Shannon says. 

We can work to “remain present” during conflict, Shannon says. In our congregations, rather than avoiding or throwing away what is difficult, what separates us from each other, we can move through conflict, “communicate, listen to each other and seek ways to engage each other.” 

In this issue, poet Karen Craigo writes (page 6) about how she interweaves faith and writing in her daily life. Rather than getting unsnarled from the tangles of motherhood and work, she works those tangles in naturally as part of her writing and devotional practice. “Maybe poems are like the kind of prayers that seem to pray back to you,” Craigo writes. “You offer up what you’ve got, and in return you get a gift, like understanding, or like the peace that passes understanding.” 

From Flint, Michigan, Pastor Monica Villarreal (page 20) shares how people are finding and sharing hope after an entire system failed to care for those most in need. “Fluctuating between profound anger and profound sadness, I cling to my faith in God who time and time again promises deliverance,” Villarreal writes. 

Also in this issue, we remember a young nurse, Clara Maas, who was called to heal a century ago (page 26), as well as the wisdom of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho, forces for reconciliation and healing in our own century (page 45). “When you forgive you are free to move on in life, to grow, to no longer be a victim,” the Tutus write. 

Whether we wrestle to resolve external conflict with others or conflict within our very selves—we are given the balm of prayer, listening and reconciliation to strengthen us in our places of hurt and misunderstanding. Through the grace of God, we can emerge secure in the knowledge that God loves us all. We can forgive. And we can begin to better understand the perspectives and experiences of others—especially those on the margins.

Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather.

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