To ignore what happened in Paris past weekend and other cities around recently would be easier than addressing it. And yet to ignore it feels very wrong to me. I don’t know what to say or what to write. I know I am sad, horrified, disgusted, stricken, and a million other adjectives and yet this weekend I cozied up by myself and worked on my novel, playing in the world that I can control because staring what happened straight in the face made me feel raw. I had to disconnect from it. I was cowardly about it.
You know, I’ve done these seminars for two different companies I’ve worked for on the differences between generations–the traditionalists, the baby boomers, generation x, and the millennials (the latter of which I fall into). Companies do this because there are stark differences in ideology and approach to life and work and if one can recognize and work with those differences, the company is better for it. I’ve read whole books on being a millennial christian. And I’ve scrolled past constant headlines about my generation (I read them for a long time but I had to stop because they just upset me). Apparently we mesmerize and befuddle the other generations (our parents and grandparents). They study us like we are strange creatures (May I suggest their parent’s and grandparent’s generations probably felt the same way about them at times?).
In all those seminars and books I’ve read, there is something always pointed out by experts. Millennials are the only generation to know what it is like to live with terrorism on American soil that was specifically targeted at civilians. Just as we don’t know what it’s like to live through a draft and what that does to a generation of men, the other generations don’t know what it is like to be an adolescent watching the Twin Tours fall while they are sitting in Social Studies class. I’m not an expert. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this distinction if not for the experts themselves talking about it.
What does it say about me–about my friends and people my age–that I am horrified and shocked at what happened in Paris and what’s been going on in other cities for weeks and months, yet not at all shocked at the same time? I live in a world where extremists can take innocent lives and try to devastate a city. I grew up in that world. A part of me feels so jaded and I hate that (hence the quote above about staying soft) because I feel like if we just replace ISIS with Al Qaida and rewind a few years, nothing has changed and nothing will change. I keep searching for a word to claim my feelings and I think perhaps I found it. A huge part of me feels resigned. It is different than feeling defeated. But it is still not how I want to feel. I do not want to be resigned.
I cannot get one of my favorite poems out of my head; it’s Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music. It’s been one of my favorites since I was too little to even understand it (weird, yes, I know).
I don’t know what to give or offer the world here on my small space of the internet. I don’t know what to say. So I will just leave someone else’s words instead. They are far better.For me, this poem is grief embodied. It captures the pain and horror and hopelessness of losing someone(s). I have hope though. It’s in God. It’s knowing that because of what Jesus did, our bodies may turn to dust but we can know Heaven with Him. And yet, when in the midst of grief and sorrow, if we could only be so eloquent, this poem holds the words we might express. I ache by the end of it.
I wrote all of that and then I texted a friend who has lived and worked in Paris and now resides in Europe. I listened to my friend and then this friend graciously listened to me and spoke the Gospel over me. And I said that I believed it. I believe that God is good and that God will conquer evil and that He will be glorified. I believed it but I was still feeling resigned and I explained that I thought it was because I was paying too much attention to man’s response, which felt like déjà vu and also in some ways futile because this world we live in…man, is it messed up.
And so I find myself recommitted to looking to Jesus. He is my hope and my salvation. He is my anchor. I don’t have to know how I feel or worry over the world’s response or despair that this will happen again. He knows how I feel already. He is in control. And I remember His words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
My friend said, “The Gospel runs toward pain.” And it does. It is. It can. Because in the world, there will be tribulation. But my heart can be full of hope and yes, even peace. Because Jesus has overcome the world.
So this is what I am actively clinging to from now on. This is what I am actively choosing to believe and trust and put my faith in.
P.S. I wrote this before news broke on Monday that governors of 26 states (including the one in which I live) are telling the world that Syrian refugees are not welcome in “their” states (even though they have no power to make such a decision constitutionally; it’s a federal issue). That will have to be another blog post for another day but Lord, please have mercy. It’s shameful and such a disgrace that a country of immigrants would turn away immigrants, that people who claim to know Jesus don’t remember or live by this sentiment, which He expressed in many ways, at many times.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:31-40) And maybe, read the rest of the passage too…
Also, see Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post which includes an article from the Economist which is pertinent any time anyone makes the argument that this is a security issue.
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