Another morning, another devastating headline.
How are we to process such a barrage of tragedy? Some of us have become desensitized and feel nothing. Others of us feel sad. Or angry.
Many, many of us feel fear.
Fear is such a strong emotion. Anyone who knows me well, knows I have certainly battled it myself. My first child was born 4 weeks early in the midst of a particularly bad flu season; and, in my obsessive desire to protect him, he and I didn’t emerge from my house into public spaces for about 3 months.
I didn’t just find ways to keep my son home during that time, I barricaded myself in and shut the world out. I wouldn’t even do my own grocery shopping because I thought I’d bring the flu home with me.
My husband had to handle all communication with the outside world. When he would return home, I would ask him to leave his shoes outside the door and head immediately to the shower. I was neurotically afraid of germs.
Once fear had taken such complete control of my life, I became a slave to it. Even after flu season was over and my baby was big and healthy, I couldn’t shake my fanatical need to shield him from germs. I had been living in isolation from the rest of civilization, and I found it very difficult to re-emerge.
Fear has the insidious power to darken every aspect of our lives, impacting our decisions and driving our relationships. Once fear takes hold, we often become irrational in our decision-making and destructively self-focused. My early months of motherhood left me feeling anxious, alone and depressed. I was far from God, and it wasn’t long before I entered a season of anger and bitterness. Only after I rejoined a community and re-ignited my relationship with God did I begin to let go of my fear and all the ugly feelings and attitudes that had grown out of it.
We are living in a time of great fear. Atrocious stories of unforeseeable acts of violence and destruction fill the news. Every week seems to bring another horrible incident and a new count of innocent lives lost. It is unsurprising that our instinct as individuals and as a country is to close and lock the doors. As insidiously as germs can infiltrate our homes, we are afraid terrorism will slip into our country, invisible but deadly.
The truth is that we can’t lock out acts of terror. Your kindergartener could be killed today at school, but you send her anyway. You and your husband could be shot attending prayer meeting tonight, but you attend anyway. Your teenager could die in an explosion at the movie theater this weekend, but you give him permission to go anyway.
A terrorist might be among the thousands of authentically desperate refugees, but we need to offer sanctuary anyway.
The opposite of fear is courage and the opposite of self-centeredness is love of others. Courage and love of others. As a culture, we claim to admire both of these qualities. So, then, why don’t we strive more purposefully to live them out?
Even in light of the Paris attacks, I stand by my earlier post “Refugees, (Il)legal Immigrants, and the Christian.” Let’s let compassion motivate our attitudes and decisions. We cannot defeat darkness with hate and fear. Only love can do that.
The world will only know we are Christians by our love.