In early September, the Horizons Fellows drove out through the rolling hills and harvest-ready fields of the Shenandoah Valley to experience a weekend of reflection, renewal, fellowship, and prayer at Corhaven Farm. Rev. Bill and Tara Haley, who live and work at the farm with their family, welcomed us as strangers into their home, fed us a wonderful meal freshly harvested from their garden and the surrounding land, and shared with us the story of Corhaven, a safe place for the heart.
While the weekend was full of many wonderful conversations, times of worship, and new connections, I will most remember the 30 minutes I spent in a mosquito-infested field squinting through late summer sun at two dozen weathered stones of various sizes peaking out from amidst tall grasses. These unassuming chunks of rock mark the graves of the slaves who once worked the fields of this fertile, beautiful land.
Just the night before, we had eaten our fill of the fruit of this sacred land and we had spent the day soaking up the beauty of the rolling hills. It wasn’t until I found myself standing over the graves of these forgotten slaves that I fully felt the tension of my own peace and prosperity at the expense of the lives of thousands of Americans. This realization is extremely difficult to come to terms with, and yet it is completely true and completely necessary for the reconciliation we desperately need right now.
Just before sending us out to see the graveyard, Bill Haley shared with us how he had stumbled upon the stones while walking around the border of his property one day. He reminded us never to forget that our country was not only founded on the principles of faith, liberty, and courage, but also on the forced subjugation of one people group and the genocide of another. My heart can hardly handle the grief of this story.
As I write this, protests are raging on the streets of Charlotte over the loss of yet another life and Oklahoma is reeling from a similar tragedy. These incidents are a stark reminder that this history of injustice is not far behind us and that deep healing is needed. I must admit that it is hard for me to believe that any peace is coming. It is much easier to turn off the news and try to maintain a normal, comfortable life in a city that isn’t yet plagued by violence, but we are by no means exempt. Our brothers and sisters are mourning the lives of their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. As a Christian, I am called to mourn with them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. ~Romans 12:15-16
At Corhaven, I found a safe space for my heart to weep and to enter into my broken history of slavery and injustice even though I don’t have a solution. In the midst of this overwhelming mess, there is a strong seed of hope growing in my soul that this epidemic of violence we are facing is creating space for the Gospel to break through. It is reminding us of our need for a Savior. The Gospel of Jesus Christ says that we are created in the image of God, but that we have chosen to follow our own will and therefore experience brokenness apart from God. But because of Jesus’s grace and sacrifice on the cross, our broken history doesn’t have the final say in our story. We can be reconciled to God and to each other and experience salvation, shalom, and everlasting, abundant life beginning NOW.
Come Lord Jesus. We need you.