Early on Monday morning I walked over to the church and lowered the flag to half mast. It felt good to do something. When we are faced with another horror, it’s easy to turn away. “What can I do, anyway?”
I slid the red, white and blue down to a lower station and secured the rope. I stood back and gazed up at the strange space above. According to some legend the reason a flag is lowered is to make room for another, invisible flag of death flying above. I don’t believe in any flag of death. But the empty space between Old Glory and the finial is all right at a moment like this. I trust empty spaces because I know about three days in a tomb. I know that loss and blank desolation can be a womb within which the unimaginable and the beautiful are born. I can live with that nothingness above my banner.
I walked home, and saw the little Rectory flag pole—not half as tall or grand as the mast in front of the church—flying its colors full in the wind. I untied the rope and opened the empty space.
What happened in Orlando has brought us into loss and blank desolation. These are moments of agony and tears, and then—if we have faith and trust—these are moments of greater strength and courage, broader embrace, deeper love. But only if we know how to trust those empty places and let the silence speak its wisdom.
We live in a world, however, in which empty spaces are immediately commandeered for partisan purposes. The Left and the Right are happy to fill that blankness with talking points we have all heard before. But we can let that go, people of faith and trust that we are, and rest in that in-between place. There the truth gradually dawns in us. There we know what matters, what is eternal, what we must be about.
There we know that we must first console our gay and lesbian friends and loved ones, and then work harder to include all the excluded ones, to embrace anyone who belongs to a “target” group, whether by race or religion or any designation other than human being, child of God, sister and brother of us all.
There we know that violence and bloodshed do not, cannot work the good purposes of God. And there we know that no act of evil can overwhelm the power of divine love. Not if we can wait patiently in the empty space for that ultimate power to become our own.
Today you will almost certainly see a flag flying low. Look above. There in that blankness is our hope. For in the longing words of the Song of Songs, “Let his banner over me be love” (2:4).