A Dusting of Snow During a Bloody Summer


A Dusting of Snow During a Bloody Summer
Brian Zahnd

It’s been a bloody summer. In Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Nigeria, and the Ukraine.
Kill the bad guys and there will be peace is the tired refrain.
All sides say it. Ad infinitum.

(I didn’t even mention the bloody streets of America, to which we have grown so numb.)

But I am where I always hope to be this time of year: In the mountains that I love.

When I hike above treeline onto the great expanse of the high tundra my soul finds room for expansion. I’m no longer hemmed in by the din from the reactive ideologues. I find time and space to pray and think.

And as I pray and think, I know this…

Creation is good. Very good. It bears witness to its Creator, who is good too.

In our primitive dread we imagine a god who is petulant and hard to please, vindictive and retributive, capricious and cruel. But these are only petty projections born of our own fear.

The mystics (and maybe the mountaineers) know better.

When I can clear my head, I know better. High on the tundra between Longs Peak and the Never Summer Mountains I know the greatest of all truth: God is Love.

Why did God say, Let there be?
God spoke because he is Love.
Infinite love seeking finite compression.
Eternal love seeking temporal expression.

Creation is—
Divine love expressed as matter and motion.
Being and time.

What is light? God’s love in the form of photons.

What is water? A liquid expression of God’s love.

What is a tree? God’s love growing up from the ground.

What is a bull moose? One ton of God’s love sporting spectacular antlers.

What is a mountain? God’s love in granite, so much older than human sorrow.

At the end of time and space, there is love. God’s eternal and infinite love.

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

When I remember these things (and they are too easily forgotten), I’m reminded that I can afford to love, because love goes with the grain of the universe.

The “wrath of God” is but one way of describing the shards of suffering we inevitably subject ourselves to when we go against the grain of God’s love.

God is all love…but you gotta go with the grain or suffer the pain. Selah.

In a reactive world where violence begets violence the only way out of the vicious cycle is for someone to absorb the blow and forgo retaliation in the name of peace.

This much is clear to any who will bother to think it through.

The problem is: Who goes first? It’s a risky move.

Who will be the first to lay down their weapons and pound swords into plowshares?
The Russian? The Ukrainian? The Israeli? The Palestinian? Us? Them? Not me. You go first.

Actually, Jesus went first.

And he calls his disciples to follow.

Christians are not the ones on crusade,
But those willing to suffer wrong in Jesus’ name.

Christians are not the ones fighting for their rights,
But those laying down their rights in the name of love.

Christians are not the ones amassing arms in the name of security,
But those following the Prince of Peace found in Isaiah’s poetry.

Christians are not the ones stoking hostility,
But those imitating the Crucified who prayed—

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

If the standoff is settled by who goes first in turning spears into pruning hooks—
Christians say, We will. We’ll gladly go first.

We follow the Alpha.
And the Omega.

We can afford to go first.
We can risk coming in last.
We can afford to lose.
We can risk even death.
How? Why? What for?
We believe in Resurrection.

Blessed and holy are those
Who share in the first resurrection
For them the second death
Has no power
–Saint John the Divine

For you have died
And your life is hidden with Christ in God
–Saint Paul the Apostle

Only those willing to suffer can answer the high calling to be peacemakers.
Only those willing to trust their fate to the hands of God can be Christ-followers.
Take up your cross (not your guns, not your nukes) and follow me.

The funny thing is,
Once we stop demanding that our life be made fair and secure…
We find that a risky life in Christ is both beautiful and peaceful.


PS: A storm just passed. There’s a dusting of snow on Mount Meeker. This too brings me peace.

(The picture is of me, high on the tundra, checking the weather, book in hand.)