Friday, December 11, 2015

First, Be Not Afraid

The most afraid I've ever been was sitting beside Caden's bed-space in the cicu. I watched his actual heart beating through what looked for all the world like saran wrap. His tiny heart squeezed a unique rhythm while chest tubes bubbled gently and machines beeped wildly. The nurses and doctors spoke mostly in a hush, bringing me warm blankets as I shivered with more than just cold. The arc of our days grew familiar and even now faintly distant, but I never quite got over the fear. Even today, writing about it, my own heart flutters. Staring down the barrel of the very real possibility of my worst fear realized, I was terrified.
Facing losing my son, I had no choice but to walk it all the way through. To ask myself what if Caden does die? Then who will God be? And this was not a question easily answered. I wrestled hard and long, fighting with my fears and doubts to come away with a tiny kernel, somewhere deep in my gut, believing God would still be good no matter what the outcome.

Even still, I have to fight for that kernel, to protect the tiny seed deep inside that somehow holds fast to His goodness despite evidence to the contrary. I hold it close as I wrestle through how to live in our neighborhood (and country) unafraid, how to love my neighbor as myself, how to speak with dignity and tell the truth, to believe the truth, heck - to live the truth. I wrestle and walk away with a limp every single time. Because there are no easy answers.

The problem with a life motto of “resist the simple narrative,” is that you must resist it on both sides of the story. It requires acknowledging no easy answers. Admitting that the equation cannot simply be compassion versus fear. I've learned in my own experience of opening our doors and hearts to the marginalized that sometimes it's just not smart. Vulnerability equals the possibility of hurt. And sometimes it honestly costs us much. Regardless, we want to live our lives with a policy that's not rooted in security cameras and burglar bars, but open doors and knowing our neighbors. And not because those things mean we will not be robbed. But because if we are robbed, God is still good and he is still on the throne.

Letting fear win means mostly that I lose. Because I believe so deeply in God’s goodness, I am certain that He will rescue the refugees with or without our help. He will redeem things (somehow, because His imagination is far greater than mine) like gun violence and terrorism. He will stand up for the marginalized and make sure our neighbors know they are loved.

But what, I wonder, if we are here for such a time as this? What if this is our chance to find ourselves on the right side of history? Adam and I talk often about how much we hope we would have been part of the underground railroad, that we would have been bold enough to march with King. We wonder if we would have been brave enough to hide Jews from the nazis. We discuss the ways we hope we would have stood on the side of history where we think Jesus would have. And I told Adam the other day, I’m not convinced we wont still have a chance to choose a side during our lifetime. Perhaps right now.

The thing I learned in the cicu (well one of the things I learned), was to walk my fear all the way through. To ask myself the really hard questions. What if we do let terrorists into our country? What if we open our doors to neighborhood kids and we get robbed? Or my children get hurt? What if we lay down our guns and then our safety is threatened?

Then what?

Sitting with those questions, that is where I find myself burrowing deeper in search of the seed I’ve cupped close and watered carefully that says He is still good. From that seed grows peace, and the unshakeable ability to trust in standing for what is right and good, even (or especially) when I am afraid.

Because peace comes often in the most unexpected places and ways. Caden's bedside in the cicu was scary, yes, but also the most peaceful and holy place I have ever found myself. The Lord who draws near to the brokenhearted and poor reminds us again and again be not afraid. Not because things aren't scary, but because we can still have peace even when they are. Because peace does not depend on outcomes, but on the character of God.

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