Living with the constant stream of global violence is exhausting. The harrowing pain of so many facing war, terrorism and crisis is now an unending narrative and I feel powerless when faced with its magnitude. The news coverage is jarring, the carnage and devastation beyond what I can even imagine. This morning at my local coffee shop I overheard two people talking about all the suffering and their inability to comprehend such hate. This grief we all feel, it’s universal. This creeping intimidation that darkness is seeping in through any small opening, that every thing we treasure is compromised and at risk, we’re all sensing it.
No one is immune to fear.
In my own life I’ve seen it manifest as a murmuring unease. I’m experiencing anxiety just beneath the surface of my day to day activities, and it’s not until I stop, breathe and take a moment that I notice it. Second guessing encounters with strangers, rechecking the locks on my door and running through scenarios in my head so I’m prepared for the worst. This readiness has infiltrated my thinking and robbed me of peace. It’s such a slight shift that so many people think it’s rational thinking, even wisdom, but I see it for what it is – and it’s not welcome here.
Fear makes us retreat, lock down and self-protect. It’s so natural that we don’t even think about it. But we have to think about it, now more than ever. Sitting with a friend the other night we found our conversation drifting from story to story of local emergencies, death of loved ones or dangers facing our children. It was in that moment that I realized, it’s not just me. Every single one of us feels the effects of tragedy and are tempted towards self-preservation at any cost. And there’s no doubt we’re at war. But I’d suggest that the first war to win is the one for our own hearts. To be a peacemaker first is the most courageous choice we can make when all hell has broken loose. It’s not the easy choice. We all want to run and erect walls around our hearts, but it takes guts to say I’m going to love despite the risk. Every single time we lay down something of ourselves for someone else it’s an act of love. Is it costly? Absolutely. It always has been.
As Advent approaches I’m reminded of the Christ Child. Born into one of the most violent seasons of unrest the world has known, He came giving of himself without restraint. He wore the skin of broken humanity, tore down dividing walls and ignored every opportunity to preserve himself. He embodied courage and calls us to do the same.