“I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
There is fire within all of us. It can refine, and it can consume until nothing is left. The fire can warm us, and it can burn us.
Fire escapes containment. It spreads, and it tends to do on the outside what it is doing on the inside. If it is refining us, it can refine others. If it is consuming us, it can completely consume others. If it is warming us, it can warm the minds, bodies, and souls of others. If it is burning us, it can hurt others.
I struggle to keep my own flames in check. My passion can burn bright and warm people into action. It can also reach points which harm myself and those closest to me.
This is why prayer, rest, community, reading, and laughter are crucial. These practices keep the flames burning while preventing them from destroying me, which in turn can prevent me from burning friends, family, and allies in harmful ways.
In my very limited time of political involvement, I’ve realized the importance of maintaining these flames. I try to keep the fire at refining levels when I talk to my representative and senators. I let the fire burn with power at marches and meetings without allowing it to burn me to a crisp.
But the fire of passion threatens to turn into destructive hate when I hear naysayers and snowflake-accusers tell us as a movement to “get over ourselves,” “accept results,” and “just wait and see how things happen.”
Don’t they understand?
We have waited. Things are happening, and we oppose them. Things are happening that affect not only my family, but other American families. Things are happening which threaten our humanity, because they threaten the humanity of many. My liberation is bound up in the liberation of those on the margins. As long as they continue to be threatened, I continue to be threatened.
When I hear these attacks, I feel the passionate, beautiful fire in me change into hateful, destructive embers. I begin to feel the flames consuming my soul.
The best I can do to control this dangerous fire is to remind myself over and over that this is not all about me. Yes, I march, call, and write because the holy fire in me compels me to, and it’s part of what makes me a child of God. But I also do this work because of the Divine Image in every person I do and don’t encounter.
I do this work for the Divine Image in my cousin’s little girl Rylan, who celebrates her first birthday today; for the Divine Image of my sisters and brother, that they may live in a world which regards them with love, not suspicion; and for the Divine Image in the refugee detained at the airport, who only wants to begin life anew after witnessing so much destruction.
I do this work because of the Divine Image present in every single human being affected by fear-based policies, for the Black Lives Matter activists who demand just treatment of their divinely made bodies, and for the parents fearful of losing healthcare coverage because their Divine child has certain disabilities. I do this work, as hard as it can be, for the Divine Image present in those who enact these policies and in those who approve them, because they need to see the Divine Image in those affected by the laws they sign.
I do this work to remind my fellow citizens, as well as candidates, delegates, mayors, representatives, senators, cabinet members, and the President to see their own Divine Image, even when it’s disfigured beyond recognition. I want to call that Image out of them so they may see it, because maybe the act of seeing the Divine in themselves will cause them to notice, honor, and endorse the Image in everyone else, especially those they want to keep out.
I worry if we forget Whose we are and why we’re here, we’ll lose our souls. We’ll lose what makes us human, the love, compassion, and mercy God gives each of us, which is more than enough for everyone. I cry out to prevent us putting up walls, promoting fear and hatred, and singling people out as scapegoats, because these actions further damage our humanity.
I worry the act of forgetting our Image will cause us to lose our God-gifted love, compassion, and mercy, and I worry what such a loss will do to my actual Muslim brother, sisters, and parents, my black and brown brothers and sisters, my LGBTQ family, and this human race.
So my challenge to those who believe walls and vetting will save us is this:
Take the fire within you which ignites fear and hatred, and allow it to burn with love and hope. Let it kill the parts which hang on to misguided ideas of “other” and let it push you into life with those you once feared.
My challenge to those resisting and calling out the powers that is this:
Let the fire burn in you. Don’t let it be dimmed by onslaughts of negativity. Let the fire keep you going, and let it warm those who are hurting.
And to those already dealing with the negative repercussions of these policies and all of the ones which came before, I say this to you:
I see your Divine Image. I hear your Divine Cries. Let your fire live and burn bright. We are in this together.
For the sake of our humanity, for the sake of the precious Image of God in us, let the fire burn.