The Groaning Cry: Being Human


The ballots are out. Voting season. How do we move forward? I find myself ruminating on the state of affairs in our world.

What does it mean to be human in a world that dehumanizes one another? Listening to the news and reading social media, we encounter rifts, strife, and torment that we do to one another as humans, apparent in all that we see around us, and if we’re honest, see within ourselves. Is it possible to be human that humanizes the other?

Origin of the word “human” comes from the Latin humanus, giving us “humane” with the greater attributes of philanthropic, kind, and civilized. Contrast humans to the gods of the day, the definition distinguishes “earthly beings” to “other beings” outside created humanity. Looking earlier to the Hebrew derivative, adam “man” comes from adamah which means ground, dirt, dust and ashes of the earth. Created as human we have great capacity to connect through the very core of who we are, whether in our kindness, dust, or simple being.

Our human-ness means we’re distinguished by our connection with other humans in our humanity, yet in our composite of dust and ashes, we cause great harm to one another. How easily we move from being humane to dehumanizing. Whether we point fingers or not at others who judge too quickly, cause harm through words and actions, or build walls to protect, we are part of this dehumanizing because we are connected.

So what’s the answer? How do we navigate our Covid-Unjust-Divided world as humans created by God? Thomas Merton offers these words: “Be human in this most inhuman age. Guard the image of [humanity] for it is the image of God.” He wrote Raids on the Unspeakable in 1966, over 50 years ago.[1] Even in the 1960s with Vatican II, Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, he asserts that our response to all that surrounds us is to recognize that we ALL are created in God’s image. My call, our call, as a human is to see all as human.

So we’re given this task: to be human. But it’s so difficult with the noises around us, the clamor of pushing the agenda, the heightening of anxiety that exists, presently and inherently in the systems of our culture. Would it not be easier to shut the door to our hearts and small worlds so that we don’t have to address the cry of humanity? The cry for love and connection, for justice and honor, for hope and a future.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus “groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”[2] Only through the groaning cry, we first recognize our sense of grief and loss in our world of dehumanization. As we enter into the cry, we then have the capacity to connect with God, returning to the one who has created us and knows our need for help. Through our own cry, we experience God’s remaking of our ashes and dust so that we can lean towards the cry of humanity, willingly enter into the pain of what it takes to love and connect, to bring about justice and honor, and to offer a hope and future.

Let us be humans, fully human, as God intended us to love one another, even in voting season.

Mary Pandiani, Executive Director, Selah

[1] *You are not big enough to accuse the whole age effectively, but let us say you are in dissent. You are in no position to issue commands, but you can speak words of hope. Shall this be the substance of your message? Be human in this most inhuman of ages; guard the image of man for it is the image of God. You agree? Good. Then go with my blessing. But I warn you, do not expect to make many friends…
–Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable (1966)
[2] Matthew 27:46 (The Message)


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