Fear is a funny thing. It can take over our lives and turn us into the worst versions of ourselves. It may cause us to become bystanders, when we should be defenders. It may cause us to be followers, when we should be unpopular leaders. It may cause us to lash out, when we should dig deeper for compassion. Fear is a monster, and one that we all wrestle with.
There is much to fear now, with terrorism destroying lives around the world. It too often feels as if terrorism itself is knocking on our doorstep. Its violence is no longer the “isolated” problem of a few countries that we may or may not have heard of. It is everywhere.
This weekend my friends and our families had the opportunity to attend a prayer service at a church where refugees from Burundi, Sudan and the Congo gather for worship. Their former lives razed by terrorists, America has granted them asylum. They worshipped through beautiful songs and dance, and through prayers of thankfulness for compassion and provision of their needs. They thanked us for praying with them, yet it was us who were blessed by them. My heart is forever touched by the faith and hope they possess, despite having their lives and families brutally destroyed. In the face of hate, they choose love.
Bodies of the world’s most vulnerable are washing up on the shores of freedom, but fear incites us to call for border closures. Fear begs us to reject those who are escaping rape, kidnappings, bombings, beheadings, torture, and slaughter. When I feel fear creeping into my soul, I try and imagine myself in their place, my world turned upside down by savage violence, helpless to save my daughter and loved ones from the most brutal of circumstances. I imagine myself clinging to my child, starving and gutted, desperately knocking on doors that could provide relief and basic safety, only to find that no one will answer because they are afraid.
When we succumb to hate driven fear, when fear of self preservation stifles sympathy, when we harden our hearts towards suffering, fearing it is the only way to protect our families, we lose a little bit of our humanity. We re-write the DNA of the world we will leave behind for our children. To love and hope in spite of fear is a choice. To have compassion in spite of fear is a choice. I pray to raise a daughter within whom fear will bring her to her knees in prayer, because her soul will be grounded in the conviction that she was created not to fear, but to hope. If fear wins our hearts and our homes, then terrorism wins, despite how fiercely we tighten our borders, despite how many weak, beaten, and weary we turn away.
I pray that God’s word will be imprinted on my little one’s heart, so that when the time comes for her to understand the suffering of others, either from afar or in her own community, she will respond with compassion. I pray that as her mother, I will be an example of reaching out my hand to others in love, despite my own fears.
My heart was heavy as I prepared dinner. We were trying a new baked eggplant recipe with swiss chard and white beans. Perhaps because I was distracted while I was cooking, talking with my little foodie about our new friends from Africa, and catching up with family over the phone, I forgot to add most of the tomato sauce and used twice as much mozzarella as it called for. It didn’t matter though, because we had full bellies, a safe home, and our family nearby. We have blessings beyond measure, and I pray that we may be blessings to others.