Beneath the Veneer

I have tears in my eyes so often these days. It seems that the world is coming apart. I am wondering what it is that keeps up this thin veneer of civility, and am amazed at how quickly the rules of behavior are swept aside. I’m thinking of Ferguson, Missouri, yes, but of world conflicts as well, as ISIS is sweeping through Iraq and killing those who are “other”. We live in a world where one day things are so-called normal and understandable and the next they aren’t. Today I know where my water comes from, where I get food, that there is gasoline for my car, medicine for my pain, clothes to cover me and shoes for my feet. Tomorrow? I don’t know.

The thing is, you don’t know either.

What keeps us from the refugee camps? What keeps you, keeps me from being wrongly accused, wrongly convicted? What keeps us from being the victim of some random crime that forever changes our lives, or from a tragic illness? What keeps us from the horror of war?

The truth is that I have been living as if these things CANNOT happen. But throughout the middle east, my brothers and sisters have been fleeing for their lives, have been asked to give up their lives for their faith.

In my church there are those who grew up living stories that are the tales of history, of difficulty, of trial, of war, of being refugees, and who know what it is to have peace one day and terror the next. These are not mere stories, but a truth I am slowly grasping.

I’ve been reading “Five Days at Memorial” and “The Zookeeper’s Wife” as well as reading/viewing the news, and one thing I am gathering from these varied sources is an idea of how quickly people go from one idea of normal to another.  It took less than five days at Memorial for people to change their ways of life from the civilized, to an emergency culture, one in which it seemed okay to euthanize hospital patients because the regular rules no longer applied.  It is curious how quickly people’s internal selves, ideals, beliefs and actions changed, or rather were revealed.  With the normal civil and social structures stripped away, one’s inner humanity, one’s inner character and real beliefs are revealed.

What will be revealed when the troops march through the streets?  What will be revealed if machete-wielding zealots reach our streets, our homes, our churches? What is revealed in my own heart, when faced with the things that are happening around the world, even if they are not happening to me?

How crazy is my enjoyment of fashion blogs in the face of children being slaughtered in one part of the world and starved in others? How shallow is the spectacle of the Emmys, glorifying the “achievements” of those in the television industry? How shallow and embarrassing is my enjoyment of it?

Even without the horrors half a world away, how crazy is it to spend my time in this way when there is the entirety of Christian life and experience, in the manifestation of God in the created world, and even in the liturgy of the church and the lives and writings of the saints that I can pursue?

How has the pursuit of these things that are less noble, less good, less praise-worthy, etc., harmed me?  How has it stolen from the love I owe to God, to my neighbors and to my family?  How have these pursuits, these interests stood in the way of doing good?

So this is why I have tears in my eyes.  I am looking at the wasted time, the wasted energy, the wasted love, and the wasted money, when their are horrors going on, people who have real needs, and I am thinking about how quickly our world can change and those in need could be my friends, my family, my neighbors, myself. And I’m wondering what will be revealed in me when the testing comes.

UPDATE: Testing has come for friends in Morrison, IL.  The news said it “looks like a war zone”, which makes me wonder if they have SEEN a war zone.  But there is a lot of mess and destruction.  Thankfully, I did not read of any loss of life associated with the storm that brought down trees all over the place.  Morrison is a lovely town and I’m praying my friends are okay.

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