We can't look away.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

"Faith is homesickness.  Faith is a lump in the throat.  Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch.  Faith is waiting.  Faith is a journeying through space and through time." - Frederick Buechner
This week, images of a lifeless little boy washed up on a shore have outraged the world. As they should.

I'll be honest. At first I couldn't look at the images at all. They reminded me too much of the image of my own little lifeless boy, and even knowing the picture existed raised my heart rate. Then, today, I made myself look at it. I made myself acknowledge this is happening right now, in my lifetime. Families are running away from chaos and into dangerous uncertainty. My mind went immediately to all the pictures that are never captured by professional photographers, all the mothers carrying their own indelible images just like mine. All the mothers who did not have the tremendous advantage of trained professionals to save their children's lives, the fathers who board a boat one life vest short, and must gauge which child would stand the best chance of survival if he fell. At this very moment there are parents making excruciating, unimaginable decisions to try to save their children's lives. And mothers who died this week alongside their toddler boys, never living to see their personal tragedy played out on CNN. May light perpetual shine upon them.

If we're going to use social media to encourage, to connect, to feed our insecurities, to spy on people we used to know, to say "me too," to live and work and relate in our modern world ... if we're going to use social media for all of these reasons at different times, let us also use social media to say, No. I will not accept the death of refugee children as collateral damage of war. I will not skim past this image and pretend it doesn't exist. I will not ignore what's happening on the other side of the world. This little boy will not die in vain. Not on my watch.

I'm making myself look. I'm asking you to do the same.

If it raises your heart rate, as it does mine, take comfort in the fact that it should. May we never, ever be comfortable with the death of children, no matter where they live or how different their lives are from our own. If you, like me, are horrified to realize this is happening in real time, stand up alongside me and say, No. 

Frederick Buechner says faith is not a position of, but a movement toward. May we move toward suffering in faith, believing the impossible - even good can happen here. May we move toward our own experience of pain, and allow it to connect us with the wider world. May we let our faith - not our politics or our checkbooks or our understanding - shape our response to refugees. 

I'm not an expert in any of this. Money seems a paltry offering in the face of this level of suffering, but if we can empower the people who are already on the ground to do their job more effectively and to help more people, that's not nothing. Maybe, in this moment, that's the best thing we can do.

I found a list of reputable non-profit organizations in the area who are equipped to help at One patrols the water, and helps refugees cross safely. Another provides relief in areas of war, to make life more bearable and lessen the need to flee. A third educates refugee children. The list goes on. I'm providing it here, to make it easier to give. 

I hate these pictures, friends. But more than the images, I hate the reality behind them. I hate to know that this week, a mother and two of her sons died trying to cross to safety. And I hate knowing there are so many more like them, people whose faces will never make it onto CNN, but whose suffering is just as real and significant. I hate this reality, and I hate these images. 

In faith - in the lump in my own throat, in my own homesickness, in my own movement toward God in whatever way I know how to search for Him - out of Frederick Buechner's definition of faith, I refuse to look away. 


  1. Only when we look evil in the face can we see how to remove its teeth.
    Peace to you.

  2. Only when we look evil in the face can we see how to remove its teeth.
    Peace to you.

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