When there are no words.
This afternoon I made pancakes with Missy Middle and her just as miniature friend. Light and fluffy pancakes for Pancake Day. In the morning I enjoyed swimming with Miss Youngest in an outdoor pool overlooking the ocean. It was a glorious day. It wasn’t a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was a good day.
Yet while we made pancakes and swam on the cusp of the ocean, on the other side of the world, the ocean filled with the blood of twenty one martyrs. Almost on the eve of Lent, twenty one husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, were brutally murdered in the most barbaric way. That this occurred is unfathomable. Unthinkable even in the 21st century. And that in the age of the internet we see still images and video footage of this horror is surprising to me also. I haven’t watched these videos but the photo of the 21 men published on social media is now forever etched in my mind, imprinted in memory, much like a trauma. I know that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). Still, I find myself wondering why world leaders can’t take decisive action against these unspeakable crimes.
This is a hard and heavy topic to write about. Being a blogger and wannabe writer, I find solace and comfort in words. Words are nourishing. Words bring life. But this time I have no words. For what words are there to describe the depth of depravity that this crime encapsulates? I’ve also felt short on words lately. I’m working on a manuscript, and with my energy poured into this project, there just aren’t any more words left over. And so I can only craft crumbs. I thought about writing a post on bloggers burn out, but then I felt too burnt out to write a post on burn out!
As I bring to the table the crumbs left over, I, like many others around the world, grapple with how to respond to the news of such evil. Atrocities happening in places far away can offer a new perspective on our own lives. But in the comfort of my home this Ash Wednesday in God’s own, I feel heavy with the horror and heartache of this world. Yet I also feel hopeful. I know that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. As we bear one another’s burdens, and weep with those who weep, Christ carries our burdens to so that we can live lightly, despite the depth of darkness we discover in our world. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says that we as the church are one body. And as we are one body, if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. In times like these, it isn’t any wonder that people tremble with fear. Though I am reminded of the words of Jesus himself when he said ‘Fear not, for I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).Hearing of unspeakable atrocities in faraway places gives us a gift – the gift of perspective.
The season of Lent encourages us to practice disciplines that are unpopular in our culture. Practices such as self-discipline, sacrifice and self-denial. Every year I give up facebook for Lent. For some it may be chocolate, others it may be coffee (if I could ever be that brave). My daughter offered to give up weetbix, trampolining and DVD’s (in that order!), and my husband has decided to give up procrastination….oh no, wait, he’s decided to leave that until next year! Jokes aside, I enjoy social media. For all the foibles of facebook, I enjoy keeping in contact with friends and family in other places. Yet I also waste time on facebook. And for all the time I waste on facebook, this Lent I want to spend that time in prayer. God seems to be calling His people to really exercise their prayer muscles. Lent is a time of lament, and perhaps this Lent calls for a prayer boot camp of sorts. To pray fervent and heartfelt passionate prayers for the persecuted church. That our hearts may be broken by the things that break His heart. Are we going to stand in the gap and be obedient to what God is calling us to?
Our minister has suggested that our church give up judging others for Lent this year. What a great idea. Imagine how our relationships and communities could be transformed if we prescribed grace instead of judgment for minor petty concerns. A word here, a slight here – insults that hurt, yet are possibly minor in comparison with the tribulations that our brothers and sisters are facing overseas. A merciful response to this evil may not come naturally, for me anyway. Yet I am reminded that these terrorists are someone’s son, someone’s daughter. They themselves may be trapped in terror and torment, the torment that is deception. God calls us to love justice and mercy, and I can only pray that I may come to the place where I am able to pray not only for justice, but also for mercy. It’s a case of ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ (Luke 23:24).