A Balm in Gilead… A Bethlehem in Babylon…
Cultivating Hope in the Midst of Despair
No balm in Gilead
No Balm in Gilead… A balm is a curative ointment… a healing influence,
And Gilead is, metaphorically, any difficult circumstance.
The season of Peace On Earth, Goodwill Toward Men is upon us again. The multicolored lights blinking all around us, and caroling, come together to create an inescapable sense of celebration. But for many, all these attempts at merry-making make no difference. The despair and destruction that is a constant theme of their reality continue unabated.
For these members of the human family, there are no sweet songs and pretty lights. There is no warmth and no circumstance of comfort. They are not the beneficiaries of any goodwill among men. All they and their kin have come to know is the displacement created by poverty and war. There is an overwhelming sense of hopelessness enveloping them.
There are no gifts – none to give, none to get. The “gift of life” has become an experience in wretchedness. For them, there is no balm in the rocky circumstances of their lives… the physicians have abandoned them. They feel forgotten in a world currently themed to celebrate the coming of God into the human experience.
In this Season of Goodwill toward men, we are tasked to not forget about them. Their presence among us should shake and disturb us. We should know no rest until their burden becomes our burden… their distress, our distress… their pain, our pain. We should want to do something about their displacement.
How can we focus solely on the celebration of hope when all some know is despair?
Some of us would rather turn a blind eye and deaf ears to them. Their presence in our reality is inconvenient. The consciousness of their misery spoils our mirthfulness. Well, as inconvenient as it may be, we are required in this season of benevolence to pay attention to their plight. They are here among us, and we should not be allowed to ignore them. Those of us who prosper should stop to reflect about our part, if any, in the ongoing tragedy of these lives.
This is a season when we should stop and wonder whether we are complicit, knowingly or unknowingly, in the despair created of poverty and violence. We should pause and think about the many ways in which we may be actors in the tragedies that beset the oppressed of our earth.
No Bethlehem in Babylon…
The word Bethlehem means House of Bread.
In a world predicated on the building of Empires, we have often become insensitive to our trampling on the rights of those perceived to be powerless. The rich get richer in many cases as a function of the despair their activities inflict on the lives of others.
This is a season to pause. It is a time to comfort the afflicted. It is a solemn moment to make the comfortable… uncomfortable.
Let us not turn a blind eye to our complicity in the destruction and the displacement that haunts the lives of many around us. Let us stop pretending that we can continue to find safety behind the middlemen who do our unwholesome work for us.
The Presence of God in our midst should force us to confront our priests, our stockbrokers, our political and philosophical henchmen; those who make it convenient for us to live in a world where our hope is predicated on the despair of many. This is no time to ignore the advantages that have accrued to some because of their mistreatment of others… A world in which the top one percent owns over fifty percent of the world’s wealth.
We should stop believing that we can continue to find safety behind our superior armament and those who manufacture and bear them. That day will come when the rock of our self-defense will become inadequate. Our complicity in forcing what Bob Marley calls “a devil’s illusion” down the throats of the unfortunate shall come back to haunt us. Our faith in our stocks, and in our gold will be shattered. The assumptions on which we build our security will be disastrously shaken.
A More Hopeful Vision
Our world must become better. We must make a space in our hearts for the essential message of this season – Peace on earth, goodwill toward all. That message must take root in our lives and find resonance in all our interactions.
Bethlehem must become a reality wherever we are. Our journey to the House of Bread begins and ends with our willingness to participate righteously in each other’s lives. That journey takes place every time Wisdom leads us to abandon those activities that bring grief and pain to our fellowmen. Our lives must become sources of healing to all who have come to know the brokenness of an iniquitous world.
There is always a balm in Gilead – it materialises when we recognize our role as physicians to each other. Let us begin our work as physicians to each other by recognizing our own brokenness. Let us begin by seeking the repair we each need. The impact we have on others has everything to do with our own inner states. Our lives and the impact we have on others is a reflection of our own inner health… or the lack thereof.
The celebration of the Season of Light has an inner component – It is this… Let us let our light so shine that others may see our righteous work and be inspired to come to that place in their own experience where Heaven and Earth intersect.
That Light of which we speak becomes the Star that we can follow in our search for that place in our experience where God lives.
Look up, look out; but more importantly… realize that your search for the Sign from Heaven begins within.
R. A. G.
Roy Alexander Graham
President/CEO, FIGTREE ENTERPRISES, INC.
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