This last fall, Brad and I went for a walk around our quiet 1960s neighborhood. About 15 minutes in, a pair of F-15s streaked through the sky over us, so loud I pressed my hands to my ears. A few minutes later, another pair sliced above us in another direction.
We stopped on the side of the road to watch.
“Where do you think they’re going?”
“I had no idea they were so loud.”
We started up again and a wave of gratefulness hit me. The sound of a fighter jet is a novelty to me. It’s not the white noise of my life. Brad and I–like a lot of you, I bet–talk a few times a week about Syria and other places at war. We talk about the horrible news or images we saw that day. We talk about the selfishness and appetite for power that makes leaders fight. We talk about the desire for justice (and other, less positive desires) that makes our country get involved. We imagine the horror. We don’t let ourselves imagine the horror.
We mostly talk about how we don’t know what to do.
One day at work, our filtered water ran out and the delivery man was a few days late with the refill. We started off joking:
“I am so parched.”
“I can’t think about anything but water…”
“My brain is drying up!”
100 feet away from our desks was a water fountain. Drinkable water dispensed on command from a convenient spout.
“Ew, that fountain is so gross.”
“I don’t care how thirsty I get, I can’t drink from that.”
“I couldn’t POSSIBLY drink that water.”
I read an account of a mother in Syria who, faced with incoming militants, had to choose which of her two young children to grab in her arms while she ran and which child to let run on his own.
I’m not confronted with bombs. I’m not deafened by gunfire. My heart isn’t pounding because I can hear the boots of violent men coming toward me. But this is probably true: In Syria, my counterpart exists. A 31-year-old woman with a baby who would give anything to have my problems. I know Jesus loves her as tenderly as he loves me. But does she know that? Has any other image bearer, any woman carrying the aroma of our savior stepped in to help her? Is there any one to grab her other child and run with her?
I can’t be that woman, at least not today when my arms are full of a squirmy three-week-old and my butt is planted on my sofa nursing 85 percent of the day. But I can do a few things from that sofa. Here are my ideas:
Feel the full conviction of my lukewarmness It took the story of that fleeing woman to humanize the refugee crisis for me. Before that, I was all too content to think, “Those poor people,” and move on. Forgive me, God, for not seeing your beautiful creation in her moment of need. Forgive me for thinking I don’t owe her anything. I owe her your love and mercy. I owe her open arms and service.
Understand the church’s response Many people smarter than I are writing with conviction about what Jesus commanded regarding care for refugees and other overlooked, oppressed people. I’m carefully reading and thinking about those articles, and digging into my Bible to read it for myself. If you’re interested: Dr. Russell Moore on why the refugee ban must be reconsidered. A New York Times article on why Christian leaders are denouncing the ban. Wise woman Erin Loechner on day to day hope and action for those of us stuck on sofas, in line at the grocery store, or commuting to work.
Pray the truth, pray for mercy From my corner of the living room, I can call on the highest power in the universe to step in and cause sweeping governmental change. I can ask the one who whispered the stars into the sky to bring food to the hungry in Aleppo today. I can confidently know that He hears and He acts based on the prayers of his people.
Call my representatives This is the hardest one for me, a true millennial when it comes to making phone calls. I’m dreading it, but I’m doing it. I’m calling my representatives (find yours and his or her phone number here) and modifying this script to let them know I’m against the immigrant ban as written in the President’s executive order. (I’m thrilled to report that two of my representatives have already opposed the ban. You can find out if yours have, too, at NPR.)
Be grateful My problems are another woman’s dream. I will give thanks accordingly.
P.S. World Vision’s Refugee Crisis Fund is a good one to support right now. Real, on-the-ground merciful help for those who need it.