Saturday, January 26, 2008

Knots in my Stomach

"Until that moment I'd always believed I could still go home and pretend the Congo never happened. The misery, the hunt, the ants, the embarrassments of all we saw and endured--those were just stories I would tell someday with a laugh and a toss of my hair, when Africa was faraway and make-believe like the people in history books. The tragedies that happened to Africa were not mine. We were different, not just because we were white and had out vaccinations, but because we were simply a much, much luckier kind of person."

This is Rachel, the eldest daughter from "The Poisonwood Bible." She's the one I love to despise for her selfish, overly girly ways. She's the one who disgusts me in her concern for sweet sixteens and match-set sweaters when the people in front of her are starving and sick. But she is the one who I see glimpses of myself in, despite all attempts to will it out of me.

I know that one human person cannot change the world, as much as I would like to believe otherwise. I have had countless conversations about building into the corner of the world that is your own and not being overrun with guilt for what I cannot do and for the justification of what I will not do.

What brings me back to Rachel is the fact that I have had the conversation about the poor and homeless in New York City for the entire four and a half years that I've lived here. My conclusion is always "I have no idea what to do." Then I go on with my day. The images of the people I saw fade from my memory as I move onto my responsibilities [and I could emphasize both the word "my" and the word "responsibilites" with air quotes] for the day. What are MY responsibilities? What are my RESPONSIBILITIES? Is it human nature to want to make suffering "far-away and make-believe?" Am I a "lucky" person, and if so, what responsibility comes with that?

Are not all the tragedies of the human race partly my own? Does saying that or thinking that seem trite or pompous at the same time, since I have not truly felt them with my own body?

Part of me wants to apologize for this rant that I seem to continually be on about the topic, but I can't do that either. It wrecks me. The one hope that I have been able to cling to and rest in a bit was from 1 Corinthians 15, read in church last Sunday:

51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."[g]
55"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"[h]
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The definition of "restoration" is "the action of returning something to a former owner, place or condition." I love that this is God's vision for earth: that all would be restored from its current broken state. Even this thought is so complex, mysterious and seemingly far away from so much of what I see, hear and read about.

My prayer for now is that I can actually trust in this when my stomach is in knots. And be in an ongoing conversation about how I can be more of a part of that restoration.

1 comment:

Annie Michael Murphy said...

Can we talk about this? Can you call me? Better yet, can you jsut come home? Are you noticing I am a bit stalkerish lately?