What a whirlwind of emotions many of us have experienced this past week with the joys and celebrations of the holiday weekend where we gave thanks to God for this time and place in history, for so many of us enjoying the freedoms we find in our faith in Christ and for those of us living in the United States of America, as we celebrated Independence Day.
My weekend was full of laughter and fun - splashing in the swimming pool with my daughter as she squealed in delight and chased her little toddler friends and relished in the simple joys of ice cream, watermelon, and hot dogs - staples of 4th of July traditions, of course. Yet each night after I tucked her safely into bed and would have a chance to catch up on the news, my heart would break all over again and the tears and prayers would mix together with sighs and moans as my newsfeed was filled with the stories of more violence. More terror. More guns. Orlando. Istanbul. Dhaka. Baghdad. Atlanta. More grieving parents whose lives are forever changed as grief and sadness replace the simple joys of childhood. I wanted to pray, but found I had no words.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26
And then the morning would come again and Cheerios and building blocks and blowing bubbles ensued. My little one asked in eager anticipation which friends she would see at Sunday School: “Will Frances and Margaret be there?” “Will my church friend Ms. Mudie be there?” (as if she has another friend named Mudie?!). She was so excited to be reunited with her little friend Mae who was in town visiting and that Ali, Sara, and Claire and Kathryn all met up with us at the pool. The photos we captured of these toddler friendships are too cute for words to describe and the grown-ups sat around and laughed and pretended for an afternoon that our lives weren’t full of the stresses of potty-training, sleepless nights, tantrums, worries about finances and safety, and the very real mom and dad-guilt about nutrition for children who somehow seem to survive off of a diet consisting primarily of popsicles and cheese puffs.
These joyful and somewhat carefree moments of the weekend are juxtaposed with the sorrow and heartache, fear and anger, awe and respect I feel as I have learned more about Emory University student Faraaz Hossain who sacrificed his very life in the face of evil to be with his friends, even as death loomed for all of them. From what we know from his family and friends and leaders here at Emory, Faraaz was a faithful Muslim and remarkable student leader at Oxford College. His character shone forth in the most heartbreaking way as he laid down his life for his friends. The words of Jesus keep ringing in my ears:
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
More than creating any holiday traditions - trite or solemn; more than teaching my daughter to be proud and thankful for the freedoms she has because of her nationality; more than I want her to know and love and question and apply our Christian Scriptures to her life; I want my child - and all of the children entrusted to our care through the vows of baptism here in the Glenn Church family - to know that kind of friendship and love that never fails. No matter our beliefs, no matter our nationality, no matter our sexuality, no matter our socio-economic status, no matter what the future holds. No matter if our words fail us in our prayers. No matter when we fail our children in big and small ways. God’s love never fails and this is the hope and promise we will cling to whether our days are full of mourning or dancing. When my daughter’s incessant questioning of “why?” turns from the silly inquiries of why we can’t have ice cream for breakfast to the more serious questioning of “why?” in the face of the reality of sin and suffering in this world, I hope and pray I will have the courage to answer her questions with love this way:
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39
Grace and Peace,
Invitation from Emory University Religious Life: On Thursday, July 7, at 1:00 p.m., we will gather in Emory's Cannon Chapel for an interfaith Vigil for Dhaka. Together, we offer hope to one another and embody for the world peace and compassion. You may also join us through a livestream feed. Let us continue to hold Dhaka and the families of Abinta and Faraaz in the light as we offer prayers for peace all over the world.