I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been making my way through my newsfeed much as I go past “that aisle” at Costco. I hunch my shoulders, lean closer to the things I’ve chosen, and casually avert my eyes.
But I know it’s there. I know it’s real. I know it’s uncomfortable. And I know that it may become a part of my story someday.
The adult-diaper aisle.
You guys, they sell. them. in. bulk. You’re welcome.
They offer features like “barely there” and “all day comfort”. On my last trip to Costco I realized with horror: someday my friends and I are going to give each other advice about the best-barely-there-diaper-we’ve-found. Have mercy. I quickly silenced the voice in my head that reminded me of what already happens when I laugh too hard, cough too loud, or even think about one hop on a trampoline.
And just like that dang aisle, my newsfeed is filled with so many uncomfortable things. That I know are there. That I know are real. That I know may become a part of my story someday.
And on Thursday they came to my backyard. When terror came to San Bernardino, my home county. Our world is experiencing crISIS all over the place. Whether this specific shooting is ever officially credited to them or not, I think that ISIS and their ideology is my generation’s Nazis. And I have absolutely no idea what to do. I don’t know how to fix it.
I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say. I’m supposed to have an opinion. I’m supposed to take a stand on something “more practical than prayer.” We live in the world of polarizing beliefs and insta-convictions, creating both insta-saints and insta-assholes everywhere. And it’s unacceptable for me not to have formed a solid conviction within 24 hours of the latest horror and posted it all over social media. Or waiting a respectable 48 hours and then posting snarky quips about everyone else’s position.
Well, here’s a feeling I have and you’re welcome to share, tweet, or repost to your heart’s content: I have absolutely no idea what to do. What to think. Or what to feel. So I’m hitting my knees.
I know it’s not popular, this idea of real prayer to a real Jesus in response to real crisis.
Because “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”
I get it. The people who wrote that headline probably think that God is either nonexistent or a total bastard that flung the stars into the universe and hasn’t been involved since. And I also get that they were making a political point not a religious one.
Still, in just about every crisis, God’s name is invoked one way or another. It’s a natural response to crisis, to wonder where the heck He is, who the heck He is, and maybe even IF He is.
And sometimes we back down. Those of us who believe in Him. Because we’ve seen lots of things He didn’t “fix.” We’ve had prayers go unanswered. And their shouts of denial fuel our hidden sense of doubt. So we tag along with moments of silence and positive thoughts and walking eggshells around what we say we believe.
But that’s exhausting. I’d far rather stand on my two feet of belief and have you do the same on two feet of thinking-I’m-a-wackadoo, than both wobble around on peg-legs because we’re afraid of offending one another.
So if you don’t think God will fix this, say it. And I’ll say that I think He’s the only one who can.
Nine years ago I got to go to Bangladesh. It’s a tiny, green, fierce country. (True confession, before I went, I really didn’t know anything about the country except that my Banana Republic jeans were made there.) But their people taught me. We lived with a Muslim family and volunteered each day with a Christian family. It was fascinating to see life there through both lenses. They both spoke with equal pride of their country and what they had survived and overcome. They told us of the war their generation had waged with Pakistan. It was a horrible, ugly, devastating war as Bangli citizens sought (and ultimately won) their independence. But at great great cost. I had no idea. Now I’ll never forget.
One day, we were being toured through an independence museum. Think concrete building riddled with bullet holes, more like walking through someone’s house, but with pictures and war relics on display inside. Now take away all ideas of censorship or filters in choosing what to display. Yeah, it was graphic. My guide was a sweet young girl, and we chatted as we wandered. I asked her bluntly “Where do you place your faith?”, and she answered quickly, “I believe in humanity.”
It’s a nice sentiment. I’ve heard it plenty of times over a Starbucks drink, but I’d never heard it while standing where she and I were. In front of us was a large poster, nearly life-size, of a woman in the streets of Dhaka during the war. She was naked. And her limbs sprawled at wrong angles. It was clear she’d been raped. Probably repeatedly. Her eyes were open. Her throat was slit. It was the ultimate picture of what humanity can do to humanity.
Yet it’s where she was placing her faith. And it’s where thousands millions are placing their faith today, too. It’s a very popular view, and sometimes I want it to be true too. I know we all want to fix it. I love that we want to. I want to believe that we could. But we are kidding ourselves if we think we will. If we think we can.
We won’t fix this.
Because the problem – the “this” to fix – isn’t gun control or refugee policies or even ISIS. To think that people kill like this because guns are available is like saying people pee on themselves because diapers are available. The logic is inherently flawed. It addresses the symptom only, when really the problem goes much deeper.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t respond with ideas and protective measures, because we should. We need to take care of each other as best as we’re able. I am saying we are missing the big picture if we think those will fix the problem – they will respond to the symptom, not the cause.
People don’t kill, ISIS doesn’t declare jihad, because guns are available. But because evil is available. All ideologies recognize evil and depravity. Where we part ways is the “fixing” of it.
This is actually the good news of the Christmas story. See, all the generations of the Old Testament, had tried to “fix this.” Had tried to make sense of the world. Had tried to redeem evil. Isaiah says all their efforts were like adult diapers (my paraphrase of Isaiah 64:6).
The good news of that babe showing up in that manger was God saying “I’m here. I’ll fix this.”
I wish just like you that it had meant an instant end to evil, but it didn’t. Not yet. Because we all want Him to go after symptoms, and He goes after causes – He goes after hearts. Even in ISIS camps. Last night I saw this comment on Instagram: “I wish I knew the cure for evil. I wish I could soothe the heartache of my fellow man.” I believe Jesus is both of those things. Not in a hide-from-the-world bit of nonsense, not in an excused-from-making-decisions-about-laws kind of way, not in a bury-your-head-in-the-sand-because-heaven-sounds-nice-and-warm-and-fuzzy-and-we-all-want-to-go-there but BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT IS TRUE, and because I believe He is the only one who can actually cure what ails us. Prayer may sound like a weak response, but I dare say it’s the bravest one of all.
We make adult diapers, you guys. And we sell them at Costco. We aren’t the fixers of the world.