Full discIosure: I am daunted

There is a quote often attributed to the Talmud, but more accurately described as a loose translation of a portion of the Pirke Avot that is commentary on Micah 6:8.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

While I agree with the premise and the sentiment, as I wake up to differing reports on the number dead in Lewiston, Maine, I must admit, I am daunted.

Daunted by the gun violence that our country flat-out refuses to do anything about–whether you attribute the violence to the guns, a mental health care crisis or even video games. We prefer to debate, rather than actually do something about any of the things we blame for the violence.

I am daunted by the evil and hate violently erupting in the Middle East.

Daunted by the continued devastation in Ukraine.

Daunted by terrorist tactics.

Daunted by foreign policies that are centered around vengeance.

Daunted by a congress who seem to believe that cooperation and collaboration are dirty words.

And once you are daunted by more than one thing, you can easily head down a rabbit hole of helplessness.

I am daunted by my country’s insistence that healthcare is a privilege and not a human right.

Daunted by the greed of capitalism and the growing gap between rich and poor.

Daunted by our for-profit prison system and our underfunded public schools that serve as a pipeline to it.

The hungry.

The homeless.

The hurting.

The downward spiral of dauntedness has no end. It is bottomless.

These days it is not hard to find ourselves lying in a heap of hopelessness. From time to time, we may all need a day (or at least a few minutes) in the comfort of our beds with the covers pulled over our heads. But that is no place to live, and it’s certainly not where God calls us to be.

Poet Ann Weems (a Presbyterian elder whose liturgy I have used often) wrote this piece for Ash Wednesday in 2003 right as US forces were preparing to invade Iraq. It is one I have turned to time and time again when prayers for peace seem hollow.

On the edge of war, one foot already in,

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

I pray that stone hearts will turn
to tenderheartedness,
and evil intentions will turn
to mercifulness,
and all the soldiers already deployed
will be snatched out of harm’s way,
and the whole world will be
astounded onto its knees.

I pray that all the “God talk”
will take bones,
and stand up and shed
its cloak of faithlessness,
and walk again in its powerful truth.

I pray that the whole world might
sit down together and share
its bread and its wine.

Some say there is no hope,
but then I’ve always applauded the holy fools
who never seem to give up on
the scandalousness of our faith:
that we are loved by God……
that we can truly love one another.

I no longer pray for peace:
I pray for miracles.

Today, I will work on foolishly climbing out of the pit of dauntedness.

To lean into the scandalousness of our faith

To not give up on the capacity of people who are loved by an Almighty God to love one another.

To do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now.

To pray for miracles.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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