It’s hard to get to church every Sunday these days. My soul has been heavy lately–and that makes it harder.
Between work, toddlers, toddlers (did I say toddlers?) and crazy schedules, it can take every last ounce of energy. But last Sunday we committed to making the last service of the day–and we sat in the third row from the front, my youngest babe leached to me like a sloth. But then the music started–gorgeous music with beautiful singers and guitars and drums and piano– and he was at attention.
‘It was a fire. Deep in my soul. I’ll never be the same‘ the lyrics said.
His eyes searched the small crowd, he smiled, clapped his hands–
I stepped out of the dark and into the light–when he called my name.
The lights changed, and he watched them flitter across the ceiling.
Jesus–he loves me. He loves me. He is for me.
And there they went–his hands stretched up, captivated by the moment, moved to surrender.
My husband and I exchanged quiet smiles as we knew, without a doubt, that the innocence of a child was on full display there in the sanctuary. He didn’t know what the lyrics meant. He didn’t know why they meant anything at all. But he felt it. And he wanted to be part of it.
Free from distraction of any detail, even down to the words we sang or the worship team or the people surrounding us–
Jesus. He loves me. He loves me. He is for me.
Arms outstretched. Moved. Even at two-years-old.
I’m 32. And I still feel the stirrings he does. I still get the fire lit right under me when something moves my spirit to feel, to act, to GO. But my hands are heavier now, as they age. Sometimes they’re fidgeting or distracted or searching my phone or placed quietly in my lap with reserve. Sometimes I forget that the initial fire that I feel–the first stroke of that primal stirring. That twinge of my hands to lift and surrender to what’s far more real than what’s around me–that’s what I need to stay seated in. So I decided to do that right now, in this awful conflict we find our world in–even when my own friends challenge me on it.
Let me explain.
When Russia, not even one week ago, put the first strike out on Ukraine we ALL held our breath. I was in a business meeting on a video call when I had to turn my video off because a screen off my peripheral vision was showing a fighter jet rip the sky open above a neighborhood that looked much like my own, and a child no older than my own, shrieked in horror in the background as the dove for cover. Without realizing it, I was crying. I hurried to turn my video off. I placed a hand on my heart. Heartsick. Devastated. Helpless. My ears buzzed with anxiety.
We all were. Do you remember that? That first day where even you were devastated?
There is a new statistic that says our attention span used to be at 12 seconds. Now it’s at 8. That’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish. And that about summarizes the attention span of our compassion as well. I have been SHOCKED to see that the unity we felt–the cumulative anger, the shared shock and grief and feelings of “What can I do to help?”–lasted about one day. Less than 8 seconds in the span of the human era. And although it makes sense because every single crisis tends to divide us over time, it’s sickening to watch it through the lenses of expectation, knowing exactly how people will evolve in their opinions, justifications, and “Knowledge”. It didn’t even take a week for us to forget about the NICU unit moved to an underground bunker or the mother holding a gun at the bus station, crying that her teenage son was nowhere to be found. It took about two days for us to find the narratives that say “Just worry about your own backyard” or “There are other wars too, so why do you care about this one?” Does it sound familiar?
I saw a meme posted three times today by three different people that blatantly said, “You aren’t really outraged about Russia. They’re just telling you to be.”
The gaslighting and irony of the statement made me laugh–and then I just got angry again. First of all, why do we continue to insult our own intelligence whenever we find common ground? Why are we so horrified to be on the same side as the leftists whom we might rarely agree with, that we will find anything at all to scurry back to the opposing end? Why are we so scared to be celebrating those who take up arms to defend their homes because we have a weird trigger about guns? Why are we so internally and emotionally constipated that we have to use excuses not to care?
Why has compassion become the first sign of weakness? Why are we allowing ourselves to forget our initial gut reactions to things as human beings, in search for more thoroughly researched explanations in an effort to dull our singed nerves?
Stop being bulllied.
Stop letting narratives bully you into believing that being an empath is weakness or a lack of education. Stop believing that you aren’t educated enough in politics or economics or whatever it might be, to feel a certain way about a situation. Stop letting the narrative, whatever side it’s coming from, to be so loud and so full of white noise that your horror at evil and your tears and anger is now labeled as weak or “woke”. Don’t be gaslighted into believing that your heart can actually be deceived by goodness.
Jesus. He was a Jewish man, do you remember that? Yet he was compassionate, loving, and moved by grace. He was strong without being calloused. He was proud of his heritage and traditions without being a racist. He was soft hearted while still demanding justice. His literal death transcended borders and he actually finds a reason, beyond all your imperfections and inadequacies, to think you are always worth saving. Yet those who are Christians or who follow similar principles often think that the tough-guy exterior is more in line with the virtues and we forget–all too soon–that when we are moved and we lift our hands and we shed our tears and we stare at the photos on our newsfeed and breathe an exasperated prayer for Ukraine–we are closer to humanity and to Christ’s purpose than when we skydive into conspiracies, parades celebrating Putin, or tell people the devastation in Ukraine doesn’t actually matter or is blown out of proportion (because aren’t there other wars too, anyway?)
It’s uncomfortable to be a follower of goodness. An empath. A parent. A sensitive person in a hardened world. It’s easy to be bullied into distancing ourselves from the true heart of the matter and worry ourselves into frenzies over dumb details. Everything from Ukraine-U.S. financial dealings to President Zelensky’s background in acting, to systemic racism within the country, to bad foreign dealings of the past administrations there–there are actually people, sitting comfortably in their safe places of privilege, using these things as excuses to tell their hearts to stop caring.
I can list 1,000 reasons why the U.S. should be bombed and wiped out. Do you know that? Probably more than 1,000. I can list all the bad–evil–decisions of the current administration and the past ones. I can talk about how we are leading in number of abortions, which is actually the greatest genocide of our generation. I can talk all day long about racism, poverty, the wrecked foster care system, the national debt, the foreign affair policies that have screwed over so many nations, the borrowed money and weaponry that will never be given back, the abuse scandals, the slavery, the colonizations, the drug and sex trafficking—the blood soaked ground we’re standing on at this very second. Our country, like Ukraine and Russia and thousands of others, has a dark history.
But do me a favor. Look at your baby’s eyelashes fluttering in her sleep. Look at your toddler dancing to Blippi in the living room with mismatched socks and a crooked diaper. Look at your dog asleep on his back in the kitchen in the sunlight draping through the door. Look at your neighbors, who always make banana muffins for the new people in the neighborhood. Look at the charities who pull together millions of dollars to help those at the end of their ropes. Look at the teenagers leading worship service. Look at the entrepreneurs knitting socks and baby blankets for refugees. Look at the children holding their hands up as they learn Jesus loves them. Look at your own reflection. And tell me–do we really deserve to be destroyed?
When Zelensky stayed behind to fight his country with the words toward the U.S.,”I need more ammunition, not a ride” it wasn’t just a cool line. It was the heart of a father and a man who loves his neighbors. It had nothing to do with the corruption he’s seen, the greed of an empire, or the business dealing between nations. It had to do with the fact that his backyard is on fire, his children are at risk, and it’s his home. He was moved to action.
When was the last time you were moved?
I read just as much as many of you, and I see the headlines and the dissent and the opinions and I hoped against all hope that this time was different. That we could band together and be the voice that literally says (and pardon my words) “This isn’t fucking okay.”
Because it isn’t. Do I care about all the other wars and genocides too? Of course. And I’ve been vocal about those as well. But do I care about the current state of affairs, despite the other things going on in the world? Of course. Why shouldn’t I? Why is it such a state of shame to care or to choose where the immediate priority lies? When did that become the cool thing to do? And why are we victim blaming, just like other countries did during World War II when people actually had the audacity to say, “But the Jews started it” or “Just stay out of it”.
I am reminded of the story of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary. Martha was so preoccupied with getting dinner done and being a good host to Jesus, consumed by all the details around the Lord’s visit. Mary, on the other hand, dropped everything–moved by her emotions and love for him to just sit at his feet and hear him talk. Even Jesus reminded Martha, ““Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
When was the last time you forgot about all the details and distractions and just moved where you felt led? When was the last time you gave yourself permission to act in humanity, not out of trend or perceived obligation?
When was the last time you granted yourself permission to feel compassion or outrage for someone else? If missiles were striking YOUR state capitol, if bombs were striking your apartment building, if your children were saying goodbye to you so that YOU could arm yourself and fight in your street–would you be posting memes about how the world shouldn’t care so much?
I seriously doubt it. I don’t think you’d be questioning if you deserve the missiles or the gunfire. I think you’d see the eyes of your terrified children, pick up your assault rifle, and join the ranks. And I guarantee, furthermore, that you’d pray through clenched teeth that the world is behind you with their support when you need it most.
I strive to be like my toddler–arms outstretched, eyes closed to the music. Moved on a primal instinct.
Jesus, how can it be? He loves me. He is for me.
Arms light. Not embarrassed. Unafraid to pray for those who need it. Unafraid to be an outlier. Unwilling to bend just to fit the agenda of a political party or a favorite political commentator. Unwilling to be anything less than good and to stand for good.
I am outraged at political leaders like Putin who operate in a spirit of fear, darkness, and greed. I am horrified at the cries of our children. I am disgusted by war. And yet, I find my strength there. I stand for the innocent, because so does Christ. So does the light. So does the energy of truth that defeats the darkness, even in the caverns of the deepest parts of the universe. I can’t fight with the Ukrainian people, I can’t comfort them, and I can’t speak their language to let them know I’m feeling their pain, and praying for peace.
But I can choose to be human and to at the very least be unified in the invisible band of support. To not be Republican right now. To not be a Democrat. To not have to choose between left or right or get tied up in the distractions and all the moving parts and the loud voices.
Instead I can choose to sit at the feet of peace, moved to tears, searching for whatever I can do to help, reminding myself that the white noise is only there to harden my heart to the only actual thing that matters on this planet and the only reason we ever existed in the first place.
And that is to be our brother’s keeper.