On Incongruence, Living a Blessed Life in a Hurting World

It could be the pregnancy hormones or the fact that the world is outright brimming with glory and horror.  The tears are so used to riding my lower lids, to being blinked away fast or let run in a stream down my cheeks.

I curled up on my prayer bench and watched the wind move the boughs of the tallest of pines.  Edison was mowing the lawn, hovering over a bare patch and laughing as he was engulfed in a dust cloud.  There are reasons I have to scrub a dirt ring off the tub and a reason I smile out the window at my son.  Because I don’t deserve any of this joy and a man was beheaded yesterday because he was a Christian.  I watch the boughs sway and I just pray, “Lord, have mercy”.

Here the oatmeal raisin cookies are baking in the oven and there the village is without water for days and children are dying.  Children are dying and how can that not give your soul a shock?  My eyes ride heavy.

It’s the incongruence, see?  The blooming flowers and dark red tomatoes and Henrik smiling his pie-eating grins and the baby kicking at me within and all this beauty and safety and peace.  And then over there, ebola ravaging whole cities, ISIS on a killing spree, women and children forced into sexual slavery, and temporary truces in an ancient grudge gone ballistic.

So, yes, we pray and we give, but I hurt for those suffering and I feel a deep shame that my small problems make themselves large in my mind.  So what else can I ask of the Lord, beyond His mercy, His intervention?  I ask to be kept brimming tears.

I ask to be kept vulnerable to the pain of others, I ask Him to beat back hopeless apathy, I ask Him to keep me awake.  I ask Him to keep my wallet open and my heart merciful, and my soul full of intercession.  I ask Him to snuff out the heresy that prayer doesn’t shake the very foundations, that it doesn’t effect powerful change.  I ask Him to keep me thankful for His gifts, but with the very real sobering sense that it’s rare to have so many.

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One Breath Away

When hundreds of high school girls are stolen in Nigeria.  When a ferry sinks full of hundreds more young ones in S. Korea.  When a woman gleefully films the murder of her unborn baby, covering all that carnage with incongruent smiles.  When a plane disappears right out of the sky and there are no answers and not a scrap to tell the story.  When a baby passes out of this life before even a day has passed, we all hold our breath.

Do you feel the trembling darkness, how it climbs up the throat and chokes us?  How we shake our heads in a sort of numb muteness and how any words we try to wrap around the horror seem obscenely plastic and useless?

onebreath1Reuben fell through the air.  I’d been ready to catch him coming down the slide from the tree house in Chile, when inexplicably he turned and ran off the back side.  His head struck a car battery and his eyes rolled back and his body went limp while my whole soul howled “NO!”.  I can’t even type this without my heart constricting tight and my shoulders bunch painfully in remembered horror.

Emergency room.  Scans.  Throwing up blood.  More scans.  Emergency surgery to remove crushed bone and put in a ceramic plate.  You can’t stay with him, ma’am.  Dustin pulling me out of the room crying, seeing my baby on that big bed with all those tubes and him crying for me, so scared.  Oh, God.

There was a moment there, on the floor outside the operating room, when it came to me really clear, that I’d love God even if He took my son home.  But I cried and sang out my deepest mother’s prayer and pleaded for his life, singing, “Give me back my son”.  Give him back to me, oh, please.

The next day I was allowed at his side and was rewarded with a smile as he discovered the buttons that moved his hospital bed.  Glory, alleluia.

“If prayer is a force at all, it cannot be possible to pray without something happening.”  Emmet Fox

If we really believe that prayer makes something happen, doesn’t that sort of change everything?

Many of my friends decided to stop reading and watching the news.  They couldn’t handle the weight and load and burden it is to see the world’s pain and violence and terror, writ large and loud across a screen or page.  They said they were protecting themselves, focusing simply on the people in their lives day-to-day.  I understood, but I think an opportunity was lost.  See, what if prayer really makes a difference?  Not just for the friend who lost a baby, but for the Nigerian school girl wondering what tomorrow will bring and whether she’ll be sold or raped or killed?  What if God wants us to see so that we act, so we respond, trusting that if He asked us to pray, there must be some use to it?

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What if tragedies don’t have to leave us tongue-tied, or worse, saying all sorts of silly Christian-eeze nonsense, assuming we know why God allowed it.  What if we actually had some effective work to do on behalf of the hurting?

Because we do, and it’s only one breath away.  Hurry to your knees, then, and I’ll hurry to mine, and we’ll give our breath and our time, reckoning it true that God listens and acts and is pleased that we’re finally loving someone else above ourselves.

“We must begin to believe that God, in the mystery of prayer, has entrusted us with a force that can move the Heavenly world, and can bring its power down to earth.”

-Andrew Murray