faith and pain

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

This past week has been heavy.

Sitting down to write this, I'm hesitating a little bit. I don't feel at all qualified to talk about this. But I can't seem to move on without writing about it. On Friday, I sat down after a particularly bad nights' sleep and having watched a long, terrible news report that made me feel sick. And I couldn't do it. I couldn't write seven quick takes, I couldn't watch anything on the TV that wasn't the news, because I felt a bit sick at how trivial everything was.

Now the air has cleared a bit and I can think properly. I hope this comes out right.

It's been a terrible week, hasn't it? My mind is filled with the flashes of images I've seen over the past few days. Bombs dropping. People being carried away in stretchers. Smouldering, charred, twisted pieces of plane strewn for miles.

It's harder for me now because I'm a Mum, and I don't mean that in a smug, mothers-are-better-than-non-mothers way. I mean it in a I-didn't-care-before-because-I-was-stupid, and-having-a-child-is-what-it-took-to-learn kind of way. (Sorry for all the dashes). Of course I cared, but now I care to an extent that is kind of painful. I can't shake the image I saw of a little Palestinian baby, probably around the same age as ours, having been caught up in an attack. His tiny hands were trembling as he cried, eyes darting around in panic, and the news reporter explained he probably had internal injuries. When they showed images of children's toys and books and juice bottles in the wreckage of flight MH17, my heart started to race and I felt shaky. When I read a brief update about the girls that were kidnapped in Nigeria, I felt pained that we've stopped talking about them.

Because that's how the news works. When there's a war or a disaster, our reporters flock there and they trample among the bodies and they pick through dead people's belongings and they film people bleeding to death in makeshift hospitals. And it's not necessarily their fault, because in a way we need to see it, and we want to see it, don't we? There's something in all of us that yearns to know more about it. Maybe to try and make sense of it. Maybe to try and connect with something that seems so huge and distant.

Then they go home. That, to me, is almost worse than the invasive footage. In a week or so, the reporters will return home. In a week or so we'll be talking about something else.

But there are still mothers missing their children.

There are, of course, many grieving people and the pain of losing someone, however they are connected to you, shouldn't really be measured in that way, but I have to admit, my mind goes straight to the mothers.

My heart goes to them.

I think of mothers missing their children after months and months of no action from the people that are supposed to protect them. Those schoolgirls have been missing for a long time, and we are forgetting them. Not so the parents that wait for them to come home.

It's too much, sometimes. Sometimes too much happens at once. I can see why people start to doubt God. Or become angry at Him. Because, why? What is the point of falling in love, or making the kind of friends that last a lifetime, or growing a person inside you and nourishing them for months, only to have them go off into a world where something horrible could happen to them at any time? Why are people killing each other and using His name as an excuse to do so?

I believe that we do things wrong, and that the world we live in is twisted and strange. But I believe that the capacity to love someone so much comes from God. The capacity to give everything for a person - to love someone so much that you would die for them - is a divine influence. We reflect God when we show love. And not just the fluffy, hand-holding wedding-day stuff. I also mean love at it's grittiest, love when it's the hardest thing to do. Love that involves making sacrifices and being hurt and putting them ahead of you even when you don't want to, even when they don't deserve it. And yes, loving them enough to let them go, even though the thought of losing them terrifies you down to the bone.

Love sometimes involves grief. Love sometimes means participating in grief, even when you don't have to. The thing is, we're all pretty lucky to live where we do, right? If you're reading from the UK, we have it pretty good compared to other places. And it's easy to slip into thinking that people from far-away places just don't matter as much. But they do. They do.

I could have turned the TV off and filled my head with nonsense on Friday. I wanted to. But instead I gave into it. I gave into the sorrow that comes from a deep place, a kind of internal capability to grieve, and I wept, and I think sometimes that's what we have to do. Sometimes when we're helpless to do anything else, just grieving with someone, even if they don't know you, is enough.

And I believe we have power. I believe that every single person has the power to make someone's life a little bit better. Even if you'll never meet that person. Even if you'll never know who it is that you're helping. I believe that prayer makes a difference, that real heartfelt prayers do change lives.

I also believe that giving helps. Even a little bit. Pennies. It means something, and even though you might not ever know whether it made a difference, I think it can, and I think it does.

That is the power that we have as individuals, and what an amazing privilege we have, to have a free life that we can choose to live with a purpose. And honestly, from the bottom of my heart, I believe that the ability to empathise, to grieve alongside, and to make a sacrifice to help someone else, however small a sacrifice it may be, reflects Someone who is grieving massively for us.

Time is ticking on. My head is starting to fill with fluff once more. My mind is on to-do lists again. I'm seeking noise to fill the uncomfortable quiet because, despite what this post might make me seem like, I am as weak as everyone else.

But I pray that this time when the news goes quiet and the cameras go home, that I'll still remember.

And I'll still pray.

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