4AM Thoughts for My City

It’s 4AM.

My hearts bleeds.

My city burns.

I do not sleep.

I understand and I profoundly do not understand.

I cry, I rage, I pray, I implore.


Grief-stricken for the family of Michael Brown.  They lost their baby.  He was killed by a police officer.  There will not be a trial to determine justice for the man who killed him.

Aching for the protesters, my brethren of Saint Louis, the great majority of whom are peaceful.  Your words and stories matter and I applaud you for taking a stand.  I’m so sorry your voices are not being broadcast because the media will focus only on destruction.  Keep speaking.

Sober for the family of Darren Wilson.  Sitting here in the black of night, I don’t think it matters so much whether or not we think Officer Wilson’s actions were justifiable.  Personally I think justice would have been better served if this case had moved to a formal trial, but right now I’m just thinking about how Darren Wilson has a mama too, and how that woman breathed a huge sign of relief tonight.  I cannot imagine having my baby boy gunned down, and I cannot imagine having my baby boy potentially being indicted for murder or manslaughter.  My heart breaks anew.

Just sad that so many schools are closed today!  Our children’s safety cannot be guaranteed and that is intolerable and heartbreaking.

Distraught that for some violence is the only answer.  Most of the people destroying property and threatening police are not Ferguson residents, and I’ve heard many are not even from St. Louis at all.  That helps me some.  And yet, surely some of our own are participating.  I don’t like it; Obama doesn’t like it; Brown’s family doesn’t like it.  No one likes it!  But I weep more over their motive than I do over their actions.  Martin Luther King Jr was credited with saying, “Riot is the language of the unheard.”  We have a deeply oppressed people group here!  They have not been listened to for generations!  I will not condone violence, but I will also not turn a deaf ear to the oppressed.  I will cry at 4AM instead, knowing I will never know such repression.

Broken because there was no possible happy ending to the grand jury’s decision.  Not really.  If Wilson had been indicted, many would have had their sense of justice validated, but some would have danced in the street, and that’s not okay.  Killing is serious.  Murder/manslaughter charges are serious too.  There was no outcome that should have brought happiness, only a sober sense of rightness.  Some are surely celebrating that Wilson was not indicted; others would have done so if he was.  Please don’t celebrate.  This is a tragedy all the way around, and though we must seek justice, we need not take pleasure in pain.  This is bigger than Michael Brown, bigger than Wilson, bigger than Ferguson.  The happy ending is far off, though I hope attainable.  Let’s not forget the biggest fight when all the cameras go away.


Incensed by too much hate and too little compassion across my Facebook feed.

Frustrated that Bob McCulloch dodged answers to numerous important questions after his announcement.

Upset that the loved ones of our police officers, firefighters, and EMS have been up all night fraught with worry.  I cannot imagine how scary and maddening it would be to have your spouse or child or sibling called out into the fray, knowing their life will be in very real danger.

Fired up that St. Louis is the 6th most segregated city in America.  That we all give lip service to equity but largely don’t DO anything about it (I indict myself in that).  That we arrogantly condemn what we do not know.  That we know so little, that we do so little, that we care so little!

Angry with myself!  If there is anything to be thankful for in the wake of the tragedy, perhaps it be this: I am coming to terms with some uncomfortable stuff in my heart.  I confess that I had utterly no idea what it can be like for a young black man on the streets of St. Louis.  I confess that I had utterly no idea what redlining was or what Pruitt-Igoe was until quite recently.  I confess that my heart jumps out of my throat when I drive through Old North St. Louis to visit a dear friend, both because I am increasingly saddened and because I am still scared.  I confess that this county girl still breathes easier south of Delmar.  I confess that I unwittingly have held racist beliefs and practiced racist behaviors.  I confess that white privilege is real and that’s it’s nice to have.  I confess that I do not know what to do or what to say.  I confess that I feel helpless and also that I have used my assumed helplessness as a cop-out.  Working to channel my conviction and self-anger into meaningful action…


Come Lord Jesus Come.

Bring justice, Mighty Father, for ALL.  You are the only one who truly can.

Cling to the mourning.

Protect the vulnerable.

Give restraint to looters and authorities alike, and please safety to all!

Be with all the families who have lost loved ones in questionable police shootings (and forgive me; I’m sure I wouldn’t recognize their names).  Be with all the families of police officers who have found themselves opening fire on a civilian (and forgive me; I’m sure I’ll never have to consider using deadly force).

Let your love reign down on St. Louis.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.  Thank you that you love every single person involved in this tragedy.  May we find love for all as well even as we seek complete justice.

Oh God, help!  Help us recognize this ongoing tragedy as our Civil Rights Moment.  Help us not let it happen it vain.  Help us stop yelling at our TVs and each other.  Help us meet differences in others with respectful curiosity instead of hateful fear.  Help us do more than just pray.  Help us do the work of healing, today, tomorrow, and the years ahead.

Requests of the only city I have ever called home.

Seek to understand more than to be understood.  Even when it’s really challenging amid unthinkable calamity.

Go have lunch in Ferguson (or Jennings, or Bellefontaine Neighbors, or Normandy, or any of the North St. Louis suburbs you probably never knew existed until recently if you are as white as I am).  I hear Red’s BBQ is quite tasty.  We’re all intimidated by what we don’t know, but I figure if we go find out, we can lay down that intimidation and pick up courage instead.  I already know what will happen if we go have that lunch because I have friends who are braver and bolder than I am — we’ll learn something.

Do the hard work of confronting your own sin/sh*t/issues/injustices.  I don’t care what you call it.  Just do it.  Find the courage to say “I am part of the problem.”  Look in the mirror, point your finger at yourself.  Own your role in the pain in order to unearth your role in the healing.

Dig deep for grace (so hard to do!).  Grace is hard to give because it means granting something undeserved.  It also means accepting human limitations and overlooking some wrongdoing in light of the big picture.  Give grace to the people committing arson and vandalism.  Give grace to our officers who, despite being called to so much responsibility, will always remain human.  Give grace to our government which, despite being called to so much responsibility, will always be made up of imperfect human beings.  Give grace to the hurting.  Most of us will never know how it feels to have our children meet the end that Michael Brown did.  Give GRACE, give tons of it.  And give grace to yourself too, we can’t and won’t do any of this anywhere close to perfectly.

St. Louis, I love you.  I will always love you.  Part of loving someone is fighting for them, and I covenant today to start fighting for you.



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