My grandmother’s house had a large porch. On this porch were four pillars. As children, we made up a game called, “Eyes Spies” (not to be confused with “I Spy”). Four people could play at one time. Three players would stand at a pillar. The fourth person was the chaser. After the chaser sang the game’s song, the players would try to run from pillar to pillar without being caught. As long as you held a pillar, you were safe and could not be captured. You could not stay on the same pillar for too long. You had to move to another pillar. It was a dangerous transition, but there was always an empty and available pillar. Then one day, as we played the game, a pillar fell and my cousin took a nasty tumble off the porch. She was bruised. The game was never the same because the fall made us question the stability of the pillars and their ability to protect us. The pillars could not hold us and the porch could not be trusted.
Last night as I watched the news about the violent shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and a community whose faith was interrupted, I thought to myself, “the pillars are falling and this porch can not be trusted.” I started to have that vulnerable, exposed feeling of roaches when the lights are turned on. Some scatter but others freeze with fear, believing that the space that they currently occupy is no longer safe and death will come at any moment. No space is safe for us. There is no activity or lifestyle that will shield us from the dangers of being black in America. Education is not a buffer. Income is not a guard. Pretending to pass does not offer protection. Death can come at any moment.
And what has been reverberating in my spirit all day long is the benediction, the blessing bestowed upon the gathered community to cover them when they leave the gathering. The blessing that serves as a garment to be worn as a reminder that each individual is part of a larger family and that no one stands alone. The reception of the benediction is an acceptance that to return to the gathering is privilege, not a guarantee. There is no safe space. The journey is dangerous and every movement is a risk.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary…walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” 1 Peter 5:8.
The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.