I don’t know how to respond to these last few weeks. To the tragedy, the terror, the suffering, the injustice. To the knowledge that the ugly headlines represent just a fraction of the terrible-ness in the world.
I don’t know how to respond to my friend, who should have been celebrating her son’s first birthday this week. I don’t know how to respond to my mentor, whose husband had an unexpected heart attack. I don’t know how to respond to my children, who are growing up – too quickly – in a world filled with so much sadness.
I keep thinking about a scene in the book of John. Jesus has just shared the enigmatic teaching about how his body is the bread of life and those who come to him will not go hungry. He says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:56-58). One of his disciples then says, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Jesus invites anyone who does not want to follow him to turn back – and many do. Then Jesus asks his disciples if they also want to leave him, and Simon Peter responds:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? “ (John 6:68)
That line echoes in my head at night when I can’t sleep, thinking about our world, and my kids, and my parents, and my husband. And the man selling watermelon on the street on a 95-degree day and the children peddling chicklets in all the Mexican beach town restaurants. When I’m thinking about the families in Nice and that little girl in the backseat in Minnesota.
Lord, to whom should I go?
I have tried many things in the past, when I’ve felt hurt or angry or scared – yoga or music or breathwork or journaling. Not eating or eating too much. Grey’s Anatomy (God bless bad television) or 1,000 page novels.
But today, even those things seem hollow. Even those things feel insufficient.
Lord, to whom should I go?
God doesn’t feel especially close right now. But like Simon Peter, I don’t know where else to turn. So I go to church. I pray for the world. I ask what I can do.
An answer comes, in all forms: my friends’ Facebook posts and protests, our church bulletin, a framed greeting card on my shelf, a song I hear at my children’s Vacation Bible School program.
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. — Teresa of Avila
How on Earth do we respond, when we are stunned and scared and overwhelmed, to the point of almost disbelieving?
. . . We must respond with a show of force equal to the violence and tragedies, with love force. Mercy force. Un-negotiated compassion force. Crazy care-giving to the poor and suffering, including ourselves. Patience with a deeply irritating provocative mother. Two dollar bills to the extremely annoying guy at the intersection who you think maybe could be working, or is going to spend your money on beer. Jesus didn’t ask the blind man what he was going to look at after He restored the man’s sight. He just gave hope and sight; He just healed. – Anne Lamott
When the world feels dark and lonely,
His love illuminates
He’s the one I trust, and I will follow him.
He is the light that breaks through the darkness
Follow his lead and light it up, light it up.
Jesus will guide us through every dark time
Follow his lead and light it up, light up the world.
— Light of the World, 2016 Cave Quest VBS
To the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world.
I can love. I can love the people around me, the best that I can. I can serve them, I can honor them, I can respect them. I can act gently (NOT necessarily in my nature) and I can push aside my pride and my need to be “right” and act humbly (also NOT in my nature). I can try my best to stop judging, stop criticizing, stop focusing on the disappointments.
My kids are too young to ask the hard questions about what’s happened in the last few weeks – thank God. They don’t know what’s going on in the world — but they do know how I live. They see the choices I make, hear the tone of voice that I use.
I can’t control the hurt in the world, I can’t control the horrible things that happen. But I can control what my kids see every day, in me. And I can try to live a life of love. This is what I can do.
I can recognize the importance that I have, in the lives of two small children. I can try to live in a way that brings light into the world, and breaks through the darkness. I can live with love and mercy and compassion. I can be the hands, the feet, the body of Christ.
Because, Lord, to whom should I go?