Monday, August 11, 2014

To Evil, With Love {and Hope}

I gape at the headlines. I am speechless. I stare, open-mouthed and damp-eyed, and the weight of my own helplessness crushes my lungs. Powerlessness chokes.

I'll be honest with you, I cannot watch. My eyes scan the text, fast and fearful, but I cannot read. I will not look long and lingering at the photos. I can't. I just...can't.

I am helpless, powerless, small and weak, and there is nothing to be done. There is nothing I can do but stare and glance away when the looking hurts too much. Look away and ask aloud, "How did evil gain such power?"

It takes a moment for the nausea to subside. Another beat for my mother's heart to remember I am here, and they--my sweet, precious children--are safe. They are not on a mountainside. They are not at gunpoint. They are not martyrs this day. In the third, quiet moment, I give thanks.

And that's when I recall not who I am but whose.

I may be helpless, powerless, small and weak, but God is not. In my helplessness, powerless, tiny timid weakness, He will show just how much. How strong He is, how much He loves, how deep his mercy. And how devastating his justice.

I stop and wait for the lightning strike...but it does not come.

I do not pretend to the know the mysteries of God, but I trust his heart is breaking. I trust He is listening. Are we? Am I?

To the headlines. To the gruesome, gritty photographs, yes. To the tweets and texts and status updates, but am I listening to Him? To the still, small voice that whispers from the Word, "This, then, is how you should pray..."

Hallowed be. Kingdom come. Thy will. On earth. 

Give. Forgive.

Lead us.

Deliver us.

I pray these words with open palms and broken tears as innocence is raped a planet's width away. I trust on behalf of the murdered, and I claim them--Christian, Yazidi, faceless, nameless, human--as my sisters. My brothers. My children.

How did you do it, Lord? How did you watch your son's side pierced, his hands nailed down? How did you watch him hang and suffocate to death--and for what?

For us.


Forgive me, Lord.

Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.

We cannot calm the storm anymore than we can set the stars in motion, and yet, Jesus asks us to pray. Mystery of mysteries. To give us this commission. In the Garden on that night of soul-crushing betrayal, He said it: "Watch and pray." But they could not do it. While Jesus knelt alone, weeping blood on hallowed ground, they slept for the flesh is weak.

My flesh is weak, and the way is barred. I cannot climb into a jet today, drop water from a sky into mouths begging for drink. I cannot deliver food to starving stomachs, clothing to the shivering. These strangers who are the siblings of my heart, I cannot invite them in. They are suffering the most terrible passion imaginable, and I can offer them no care.

But this one thing I can do. Watch and pray.

I pray hallowed. I pray, "Kingdom come!" On earth. Now. As in Heaven.

I pray give. I pray, "Forgive!" 

I pray lead us, Lord. Deliver us from evil.

I pray, and I am watching. Waiting for the lightning strike. But remember, soul. Remember war quells nothing. It is only a stirring up and, true, a natural response in the face of evil. Yet after so many blood-soaked millennia, this much remains true: war never wins. No war is ever won. Not truly. Truce is but a breather: a boxer, head hung, fist pumped, waiting for the next round.


I am small. I do not know the answers. I judge neither the method nor the means, though I question constantly. I make no condemnation, no more recommendation than this: Christ. I know only that it is prayer, this prayer--this You which resurrects my hope. You are the only hope. Not jets or guns, not food or water. You are peace, and it is You who will bring peace. And yet, you tell us simply, "Watch and pray."

Watch and pray. Go and make.

And with those final words, you left us. For reasons unknown, you left us, and you did it with these words. These two-part instructions. Watch and pray. Go and make. You left us...and you left us no Plan B.

Are we listening? Are we watching, praying; going, making?

I confess shame-faced: it's easier to wallow in weakness. Easier to feel informed enough to be cynical than to do the hard night-watch of prayer. Easier than the go and make of the mission field. Easier, even, than the near-at-home forgive. But in this, this two-step obedience--right here is all our hope.

Deliver us. Deliver them.

Never let us forget your strength. Let us never despair nor drift to sleep. Help us to keep watch, because today it is them, but tomorrow it could be my daughter's head on the execution block. You would still be strong, and yet...

I pray they'd be watching. I hope someone would be praying for me.


  1. Thank you, Bethany, for these beautiful words.. This is how I feel too. I know I will come back and take all of those verses to prayer this week.

  2. Amen, verily I say unto you Amen.
    I'll admit I haven't been able to watch the news lately, it is too disturbing. All I can do is pray, and trust in God. I have been irritated with my daughter for being a three year old, and yet I know in my heart how very precious she is.
    I know that right now their are mothers and fathers who would give anything to have their child annoy them once more for now their voices are still. I know that right now children have watched their parents be slaughtered, I know that parents have watched their children be executed, shortly before being killed themselves.
    I know their are people starving on a mountainside wondering if God has forsaken them, and all I can do is pray.

  3. Do you like to read some of the Divine Office each day? It's so very beautiful and fitted perfectly to the day and the season! I love to read it through the day online, and I'm really looking forward to getting this condensed version in the mail! 'Shorter Christian Prayer: The Four-Week Psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours Containing Morning and Evening Prayer'.

    1. I do, actually! My husband and I fell in love with it several years ago, and we say vespers together every night. When I can do more, I like to :-) What a beautiful and rich prayer tradition we have!! I also love to know that all our priests are praying it every day. It inspires me.


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