The Little Ones
It's another Sunday and it's cold iron grey outside and Daisy has two tumors again, this time inoperable. My heart is still torn up about the tiny children that were killed on Friday - every parent's nightmare and something I don't want to think about: we are, none of us, ever "safe" from evil and suffering. (Why do we delude ourselves into thinking we are?) It's also my family's Christmas celebration today - somehow squeezed in to the making of Scotch eggs and rosemary-kalamata olive bread is supposed to be time for us to both cherish what we have and offer up our heavy hearts to the one thing that is constant in life - God. Our school advised us to gently tell our children about what happened in Connecticut and I found myself stumbling over the words as I told my 7 year old that someone, somewhere had hurt a bunch of children just her age.
I know that elsewhere in the world, elsewhere in the county, elsewhere in my neighborhood, people live with terrible realities every day. The sobering knowledge of this doesn't change the sickening way in which it hits home when I imagine my daughter in a dangerous, futile situation - so easy and improbable and irreversible. In fact, I'm plagued with guilt over the idea that this (well, not THIS, but many other tragedies) is lived out every day in every corner of the world. Why are we so selfish? Why do we forget in between major disasters that there is such a thing as child pornography, famine, disease, AIDS or human trafficking?
Is it because our hearts can not handle it? Do we numb ourselves with what comforts we can afford and, when the flame ignites outside of our neighborhood, when it doesn't touch us, we turn aside - our small hearts breathing a sigh of relief at the danger passes by us?
My thought, amid all of this, is a nagging suspicion that actually what we are doing all of our lives, as we scratch around in the dust, is avoiding looking up. When pain does not hit us directly, we exhale and hug our kids and enjoy our beautiful house and deposit our paycheck and feel blessed. We know that our routine will not be upset, that our reality need not change, that our days will continue on the way we have planned them to be.
In the middle of my depressed thoughts about Connecticut, I hear my friend quietly remind us that our guest speaker at church this Sunday is a pastor from Uganda. He has seen war, he has seen starvation, AIDS wipe out half of his population, he has seen fatherless children and more atrocities than I can handle in a lifetime. He is also a man with an incredible sense of proportion and an insight into the heart of humankind that I will never know.
I'm not sure whether to be thankful for this reminder or not. This last time he was here, this man said that he was glad to be leaving the US. That spending more than three weeks here was difficult because he became so distracted by all the luxuries that we have and live with. He was eager to return to a land where reality is dealing with things that really matter.
There's a mixture of jealousy and revulsion that springs up in me. Jealousy of his purity of heart, his undiluted and clear vision, his love for God and his congregation: all encompassing. Revulsion at the way I cling to my car with heated seats, my Target, my safe neighborhood, my well-dressed kids and my choices at the dinner table. Do these things lean me closer to God or away from him? I'm thinking it's the latter.
I'm in a mixed state of The Blessed and The Worried and The Successful. I want to protect what I have, I'm fearful of loss and pain. I do not turn to God unless I'm absolutely forced to. And I wonder what kind of freedom I would find if I let go and looked up: if I stopped living in fear and started walking in faith.
We can not be safe: that is never a reality - no matter how hard we try to make our lives beautiful and contained. Life is full of pain and it will come. When we are reminded of this, we squirm, we huddle, we become fearful. We do anything but look up. We do anything but square our shoulders and meet the Creator who holds all things past and future. We do not want to go that deep, we don't want to kill the buzz of our own success. We don't want to admit - to anyone - or to ourselves, that we might fail, or that evil might knock on our door. We sit, hunch-shouldered, guarding our treasures while the rest of the world goes by. We don't look up because we are too afraid of what God will say to us when we do. We look inward and hope that we won't be touched.
And then, I'm afraid, we miss the view.