During one of the many uncharacteristic hot, humid days in San Diego these past weeks, I planned a treat for myself–a drive down to the beach midday to dive into the great Pacific. I expected crashing waves, but what I didn’t expect was for my heart to break.
When I arrived on the beach, thick layers of large, slimy, tough strands of seaweed lay about 100 yards before me in the shallow water near the shore. This meant before I could plunge into the clear aqua blue waters beyond, I’d first have to wade through an overwhelming seaweed jungle.
My overheated, overworked body needed the cooling balm of a saltwater water plunge, so I ventured forward, annoyed by the inconvenience of the thick, tangled mess of rubbery seaweed, their slithering, snake like strands moving between my thighs, wrapping tentacles around my ankles, tripping me up on my way to the clear, wide blue.
Struggling through the dark, dense seaweed, complaints rolling off my tongue, suddenly my heart cracked open — recent news images of the little 3-year old Syrian boy, Aylan, found dead on the shore of Turkey, flickered before me like a movie. I’m complaining about seaweed? I imagined his desperate father, one of the thousands of refugees fleeing Syria, struggling to keep his two little boy’s heads above the water, each tucked under each arm– their inadequate 15-foot boat he paid smugglers $4000 euros to escape war-torn Syria, capsized in the monstrous sea. His wife already had drown.
I imaged him finally surrendering, releasing his two dead boys into the tumult of the unrelenting sea, his soul crying a silent, stark scream, a cruel wail of helplessness, a wordless, hasty, useless, lamenting cry for his beloved family.
What can we do with such horrors, what suffices for the depth of such tragedy? Only broken hearts bleeding, bleeding compassion, our crying out tangled messes of prayers, pleading comfort for those mourning, seeking ways to help heal such brokenness…
For we do not know what we should pray for as is fitting, but the Spirit itself makes intercession with groaning which cannot be uttered.-Romans 8:26
In our safe American world where news from afar come like storms behind screens in our living rooms, onto our PC’s and Macbooks, we wrap grief-ridden stories around our hearts like seaweed, lured into the trenches of the world’s despair – or we are numbed by it all.
As I move through the muck, more images flicker before me, his wife’s love fighting the sea, gasping for the ounce of might, the last breath, the hope,that somehow, her husband holds her children safe.
I make it through the seaweed stew to crystal clear waters and dive deep down into the cool ocean’s expanse, swimming through flickering images, my highly sensitive body, dripping with tears that fall into silence, into the ocean’s depths.
I pray to release this sorrow from my heart.
I wonder, What good are our wails? What can we do? Are my words a ministry enough? I had daydreamed throughout the week before my swim, of opening our home to a refugee family, those wandering, uprooted like redwoods in a storm, their roots fleeing horror, homes left behind, regular lives pulled out from beneath them like rugs. Could my family in our busy lives handle such raw hospitality, amidst school, work, theater performances, and the already strenuous work keeping up with our comfortable lives? Do we have it in us, or is someone better for the task – those with specific spiritual gifts needed for such sacred, desperate hospitality?
Or do we send dollars to charities, to support the dedicated people already before us providing food, clothes, shelter–the doctors, the volunteers, the cooks, teachers, and ministries finding these displaced people homes, or those rescuing others floating in the middle of the sea?
A sudden mighty wave comes like a whale, I swim toward it with strong, pumping arms, and quicken my kicks. I dive under it’s crest, managing to let go of the images, diving deep into the refreshing, welcoming, warm beautiful ocean, before a mighty wave crashes like thunder, churning seaweed infested shallows near the shore.
I go home after the swim, and the week continues on, my everyday life crashing over my servant heart. My intention of wanting to do more to help, retreats, beneath the covers of my safe, American life.
For a few days, I forget baby Aylan, his brother, Galip, Mr. and Mrs. Kurdi, and the thousands of displaced refugees fleeing war-torn towns and cities.
But God knows my heart, and in matters of the heart, God helps us to never forget.
God turns our broken hearts toward the healing of humankind. For when we’re called to holiness, we’re also called as servants to the hungry, the widows, the orphans, the oppressed, those in need, and those mourning.
We just cannot forget.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in. – Matthew 25:35
When our hearts crack open, making deep crevices, and we submit ourselves in faith, God guides us to how we can serve according to our spiritual gifts, to help heal the world around us.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who lead with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8
It doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone has something to offer the movement of justice. – Shane Claiborne
Today my prayer is for discernment, to determine how God will use my spiritual gifts in this Godly movement toward justice, of how I can offer my teardrops in this grand ripple effect of compassion, contributing to the movement of those creating heaven on earth, those making waves of love.
What about you? What breaks your heart?
For those who feel called to help the refugees, here are a few excellent links to guide you to quality organizations on the front lines, and ways you can help.
Migrant Offshore Aid Station: Dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea
CWS is working with partners to eradicate hunger and poverty and promote peace and justice among the world’s most vulnerable people.
Resources mostly organizations for Europeans from a wonderful blog from a Lady in France.
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