“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot
In the recent past, our Pastor has been including stories of the past and present persecuted church. If I’m being honest, I really have not enjoyed these parts of the sermon. I don’t know about your imagination, but when I hear these stories I pretty much insert myself as the “main character” and everyone important in my life into the “supporting roles.” This is all well-and-good when the tale has some sort of fairy-tale ending. But when the content includes the persecution of Christians, my stomach isn’t on quite-so-friendly terms with the story. And as a mother, when the stories include children it’s really almost too much…
But sometimes reality is too much. Nonetheless, it remains the same.
And I haven’t been able to get them out of my head.
I don’t generally watch the news. Well, I really NEVER watch the news. It’s much too depressing and negative for my taste. But now-a-days the news is not just on TV where it is easily turned off. It’s much harder to avoid the news stories that your friends share all over Facebook. And seriously, they have been all over Facebook. The horror is everywhere. The heartbreak is slammed into your face. The truth does not allow you to run and hide.
But we try. And it is so easy to lose ourselves in our comfortable little worlds.
A reality that is so very different than the ones that so many other Christians find themselves in. I sit in my house, warm and cozy while someone out there (Christian or not) sees their breath in the frigid air of whatever place they call home. I drive my car wherever I need and want to go while someone out there (Christian or not) is forced to walk to where they NEED to go, and maybe without any shoes. I have access to immense varieties of food while other have little or none. I am able to nurse my baby while other mothers are so starved themselves that they are unable to produce what their infant needs. I complain about having so much laundry while others wash their one and only garment in a dirty river somewhere so far away. I can sit in my children’s playroom (and actually have a playroom) surrounded by toys and play with my children while mothers across the world fear that they will be unable to protect their children’s lives. The comparisons are unending.
And here we sit, debating whether vaccines are blessings or curses. Arguing whether organic or non-organic is better. Judging the new people at church because of their “past”. Engrossed in who is dating who in the celebrity world. Obsessed by the stats of our favorite sports team. Surrounded by the latest technology, a world of TV shows, running water, toilets that flush. Comfort after comfort after comfort. Privilege followed by privilege followed by privilege. Yet we debate and demean each other over issues that- when you really think about- it seem so trivial. The state of the public school system…medical care and practices…government and politicians…whether or not Taylor Swift is all she cracks herself up to be…the latest and greatest toys…we wear all the best clothes and are obsessed with providing the “best” for our children.
We have houses and cars – independence found in our own piece of the world. We have safety – laws that protect and a large body of people that work to enforce those laws. Yet we complain about getting pulled over. We have convenience – grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls. Yet we are frustrated when the line is long, or the organic variety is limited, or they don’t have your size. We are surrounded by so much. So much of everything that so many do not have.
And we keep on trying to run and hide from the truth. From reality.
The reality that all of the issues that you spend time and energy contemplating and pursuing, all of the things you take for granted or don’t remember to appreciate make you feel like nothing compared to the world.
The world that is full of suffering. Persecution. Christians…women, men, children…being killed, tortured, raped…Christians who do not have permanent homes. Christians who do not have cars. Christians that do not have access to “good” food. Christians that don’t have even a bit of what we have. They’re dying. Dying for goodness sakes…while I sit here sipping my coffee and writing this very sentence. Infants ripped from their mothers…husbands torn from their wives. Children…babies…
And I can’t even handle this thought.
Why them? Why not me?
And what if I were in their shoes? What if?
I can still see the video that our Pastor showed at church a while ago. A woman in some Middle Eastern country telling her story…her prayer. Through her prayers she felt God asking her to give up herself, and then her husband, and finally her children. To come to terms with the reality that it may be His will that their lives be taken. And through her prayer and discussion with those family members she did this…she answered God back with a yes. Even when offered the chance to be brought to safety, her family chose to stay.
I can’t imagine trying to explain to my child that God’s purpose for our lives might be that they be taken. Or choosing to stay when I had a way out.
But maybe you can’t really know what you would do unless you had lived through the experience yourself. There are some decisions and choices that can only be made after experience has brought you to that point.
And we are so fortunate that we aren’t being brought to that point.
But some people are. And it really is just so hard to understand why. Yet faith directs our questions to Him Who Knows All Things. And though we tend to complicate life and the answers we demand from God, sometimes the answer is really quite simple.
“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them- those who are mistreated- since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3
For reasons only He can understand, some are purposed for persecution while others are purposed to pray.
And while the voices of the testimonies of these suffering Christians, and the challenge that their faith offers to me, and the horrors that I can’t get out of my mind fill my thoughts I can’t help but think of words penned by J.R.R. Tolkien (please don’t tease me, I promise it really does apply).
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.”
So as I hold my children tight, and enjoy the multitude of privileges around me I have decided that my time is meant to remember. To remember those who are mistreated. And to pray.