With “9/11” coming up this weekend, memorial services and commemorative happenings are all over the place. My kids are young enough that a simple “Well hun, 10 years ago a few people did a very bad thing, and it hurt a lot of other people.” will suffice. But not too far from now, my children will be asking more and more about the things they see happening in the world around them. I pray my children will always experience disaster of this magnitude through the lens of “how we can serve/love those who endured it”, but I realize that the longer we live, the greater the chance that something like this may happen in our neighborhood.
In my own life, I’m thankful to have had opportunities to serve in places of devastation. I remember Spring Break of 2002, when I was able to travel with some BURPO (Christian version of a frat, don’t ask 🙂 ) guys to NYC. We served at a food pantry, volunteered in some children’s ministries, did some repairs/renovations at a Church that has since been torn down for a hotel (eminent domain), and prayed with people walking near Ground Zero. We felt like we were able to serve a small group of people in a way that mattered.
More recently, I was able to take a group of 23 to Joplin, MO, where we helped with several clean-up/rebuilding projects. Sweating more than I knew was possible, we helped remove debris from collapsed homes, and nearby fields. It was tough work, as many found wedding pictures, notes between friends, and heirloom-type items. Over 7,000 homes were destroyed completely. To imagine something of that magnitude hitting our own city, definitely makes you cuddle a little closer to your 2 year old the next week. Even as the flood waters invaded the East Coast, our daughters were wide-eyed over the videos of people with basements full of mud.
As parents, and as Christians, we don’t want to “glaze over” the fact that these are very traumatic and horrible happenings. We live in a world that is broken, and where humans and creation itself have gone so far from how God set things long ago – that these things continue to happen. As modern evangelicals, we’re uncomfortable with suffering that seems without purpose. We toss out phrases like “Well, God has a purpose for this.”, usually in the wrong places and times. We jump to the “hope” found in the large numbers of volunteers, and highlight the incredible places and times where light is shining in the darkness…while many still mourn the losses and sufferings of those yet to bury.
But what about a God who weeps with us? A God who never intended these natural or man-made disasters? A God who is heart-broken over the condition of his creation, and is acting tangibly to change/restore things?
To be authentic as a follower of God, and a parent of our children, seems to call us to two responses at once. To hold simultaneously the grieving heart of one who mourns the condition of creation; and the supernatural Hope that God has begun something new in Jesus Christ that is continuing unto completion with the restoration/making new of all things.
To put it simply – to be people who are “mourning the opportunity”.
We put our arms around those who suffer, offering aid and prayers of lament. It may be us next time. But we are also deep wells of hope, sourced not in ourselves or any desire to make things “happier”, but in the Love of God and His desire to use what has happened. He may not have caused it to happen with a purpose, but God can definitely offer his redemptive purposes to anything that has happened. There is beauty, and the Kingdom is coming – “on earth as it is in Heaven”. May we have the patience and wisdom to know when each response is necessary, and be praying for all of those around the world in need.
If we raise our children to be mission-ally connected with a world that is constantly experiencing suffering (famine, drought, war, disasters, disease), perhaps it will help when these things happen a little closer to home
I just realized this post may seem disjointed or random. I suppose that’s what happens when you try to write during naptime. 🙂 Looking forward to a great weekend with the family…