‘Holding the High Watch’ is the phrase Errol Roelofsz used to describe the job of the Prayer Chaplains at Unity San Francisco. It means that regardless of circumstances we stand with God, affirming the Truth that love and goodness are inherent in each person and situation. As a prayer chaplain, particularly when someone wants prayer for difficulties, a serious illness, struggling to find work, loneliness, depression, fear, anxiety and/or anger whatever the cause, it is my job to affirm the positive without judging their feelings or struggles.
When things are going well, the prayer is one of gratitude and appreciation. This is less challenging than when someone is facing fear and suffering. How can I be grateful and see the good in life, when a loved one has stolen most of my savings? Or I have just learned I have breast cancer? Or I don’t know how I am going to pay next month’s rent?
With ‘the news media,’ the phrase ‘if it bleeds, it leads,’ remains sadly true. Recently the news has focused on children being taken away from their parents as part of the USA’s border immigration enforcement. This fundamentally immoral behavior (child abuse) is being done in our name. Social media spreads out information—and misinformation—very quickly. We get inundated with pictures of crying toddlers and smirking politicians who misuse the Bible to justify what is basically unjustifiable.
So how do I ‘Hold the High Watch’ in circumstances such as this? How do I affirm the good in life when people defend child abuse as reasonable action? Whether you are a prayer chaplain or not, it is in times such as now that it is most important to affirm the good in life, in people. Michelle Obama is famous for repeating the phrase, “When they go low, we go high.” So how do we go high when this is happening and those supporting it basically attack anyone who objects to it as weak, unpatriotic and anti-American?
It seems so easy to respond in kind, accuse them of being stupid, racist, ignorant or anti-American. We can focus on their bigotry, the anti-family policies of the allegedly pro-family crowd, the sanctity of life only before one is born. To repeat a helpful phrase, ‘The trouble in wrestling with a pig is that while you both get dirty, the pig likes it.’
I believe that every person, every soul is good at core. Some folks just seem to hide it better than others, usually defending against some fear. None of us always behaves or express ourselves from our core of love, compassion and kindness. It is my responsibility to resist the impulse to mirror the negativity coming at me. I would rather respond from a deeper, loving wisdom.
As a prayer chaplain, when someone comes to me to pray after getting a cancer diagnosis, I pray affirmatively with them. I affirm their core value as a person, as well as their underlying health, strength and wholeness. I don’t curse the cancer. I affirm life, and bless them, their families, caregivers, even their treatments. I see all working together for their highest good, and the highest good for all. Then I express gratitude for their lives, for all the things they have already enjoyed and achieved and the things they continue to do.
So what about the families being torn apart and the children feeling lost and confused? I pray affirming them being reunited and healed. I also pray that those bringing forth such policies are reminded of their core of love, and that kindness is not weakness but a different form of strength. And finally, I pray that all of us find healthier ways to address fear that doesn’t fuel suffering and inhumanity.
It is easy to see the ‘bad’ that comes from these actions. So where is the ‘good?’ This is a hard question. I do know that some of those whom up to now have ignored the abusive actions of our leaders, are starting to take notice. Protests are spreading beyond the usual groups. I see an awakening of consciousness that we are actually all of the same race, the human race.
“Holding the High Watch,” or “Going High” means choosing to see and act based on affirming life and love, and not to return fear with fear, hate with hate. Those who perpetuate harm may never acknowledge or even see the wrong they do. It is not my job to force them to do so. It is my job to respond with love, not ignoring the abuse but not mirroring it either. I choose to live more from love than fear. It makes life better for all.