I am a woman of raucously good faith, I am. I am thirty-seven and I have pink hair. Not exactly a scaredy-cat. But this ISIS stuff has got me spooked too. Or maybe I’m the worst cynic and bigot of all and the night terrors are mine alone to carry in grey buckets of shame. The dream is this:
My entire precious family is in deep dream states except of course for my nine year-old special child, the boy who never breaks (or eats). Benjamin has crept into our bedroom lair, laughed ornery at the bluegrass duet-snoring, and then he has brazenly stolen my iPhone from my bedside table. It is 3:00 am and he is playing MineCraft under his Super Mario Brothers comforter, and he has plans to return the phone to my charging cord just before the battery dies. He does this often and has never been caught. But then he hears the snapping, crackling, popping noises, like firecrackers in our house. He’s only confused for a few seconds. We are under attack!!! He understands instantly. He needs a weapon, and thankfully he has thought about this before, so he grabs his wooden paint easel and snatches hard the back strip of wood off it, successfully ripping the wood briskly enough that the wood had become a jagged spear, as he had hoped. Only Benjamin among his six family members would have jumped to the correct conclusion at the sounds of these foreign, well-armed men outside the front door. And then inside the house. Only Benjamin would emerge from his bedroom and put up a fight. The rest of them went down like lambs to the slaughter, but not stupid little lambs. They knew this was the way Jesus had gone down, gently. Mom had talked about this a few times, not fearfully, but of the very real possibility that jihad could knock on their door someday. Everyone knew Ben could never go down without a fight, and that was the hardest part. The rest of them could see the prize, the Christ, and held His gaze until the end, even little Sam. They went down well and beautifully, but then so did Ben, in his way, raging all the way down against the dying of the light.
So there I am—the horror of my blatant racial, religious prejudice exposed in Technicolor vulnerability. I too am afraid of the dark. I’ve been so careful all my life not to flinch at the dark men, not to lock my doors or change my tone or clutch my purse. But I am afraid too, dammit. It makes me so mad. I am so ashamed to say that as I think about the black men I love so much and have prayed with and worshipped with. Or maybe this has nothing to do with skin color or race. But then doesn’t it? I don’t know. Do you? Can someone please explain it to me? I can’t imagine waking up at 6am and needing to write about such a thing even 5 years ago. But I’m too old to hold back this telling-of-the-truth any longer.
My dream could really happen. We cannot truthfully tell our children that they are safe. And we don’t tell them that. We don’t lie to them like our parents perhaps lied to us—that everyone will be fine as long as they do everything the way Jesus says. The Word came and walked the line no one else could walk, straight to his execution, saying all along the way of suffering that many of us will go down like Him, if we’re LUCKY. No one’s safe. God’s not safe. Stop telling that lie, for the love of Holy Scripture please. He’s not safe, but He is good. And He is sovereign at least. Completely good and completely in control—it’s weird but how bad could this be if it’s really true? There is peace in that if you can find it in the tension. It’s a lasting peace too, like water that quenches your thirst for a lifetime. Not like most things.
There are ISIS intelligence agencies and rogue individuals alike attempting to target powerful Americans and soldiers in Western Europe, and they are encouraged to our assassinate infidels (that’s us) in our own homes if necessary. My very worst nightmares could very well really happen in my own community in the near future.
For some of us, it is not possible or smart to pretend anymore. It’s too close. This is actually real. There is a group of people who wants our group of people (Americans and/or Christians) either killed or subjugated to slavery. They are playing a long game, people. But Jehovah God’s is longer. The one true God, whose name is not Allah, is infinitely wiser and more strategic than the most mind-blowing thing we can even imagine. Obviously, Christopher Nolan’s got nothing on the mind of God. Christopher Nolan and Leviathan are God’s playthings. Our God’s got GAME. He knows what He is doing and this thing is indeed winding down just as He intends. And we need to accept that. This is what the end looks like, people!! This is it! Embrace it and let’s do this thing. All of us are afraid, for we are human. We fear, therefore we are. No, I don’t want to be shot or have my head cut off, thank you very much. But if I do, I hope and pray that my eyes will be fixed on Jesus and that His name will be on my lips, that the Spirit of Christ will rule me.
These refugees will be moving into our neighborhoods and schools and restaurants, and then into our churches and social clubs and even our families eventually; and some of them may not have good and prosperous plans for us. It is true. Someone could be scheming right now to steal a local soldier’s wealth and destroy his family for the honor of Allah. This is really not even radical Islam. It’s the moral equivalent Biblical Christianity. This is Koranic Islam—if you are truly an obedient servant of Allah you might just consider committing the ultimate act of honor and killing an unbeliever (particularly if you have already committed some carnally-motivated and atrocious sin for which Allah has little mercy or compassion, only penitence). Christians, we’re always encouraging each other to be “radical” because we yearn intuitively give ourselves to something or someone. Don’t we get it that there are Muslims who are both immigrating and migrating here with a genuinely-felt missional purpose? Albeit starkly different from the Christian mission, which is to garner worshipers for Jesus Christ and then all live together forever, theirs is to establish a Muslim-led kingdom (caliphate), wherein all unbelievers, in particular Muslim apostates and Christians, will be cut down.
Frankly, don’t we have to give them some kind of credit for actually following through and going all out for their faith? They are hardcore in the only way they know how to be. They don’t know about Love yet! But I feel an eerie respect that they are maybe trying harder than most Christians to give it all to their god. Doesn’t that say something noble and beautifully desperate about their hearts that they are so willing to give up everything for what they believe to be true? Can’t you SEE why Our God must have them for His own?????? Can’t you see how beautiful they are, how beautiful they will be if they behold and embrace Christ? Can’t you see how that will change the world? Can’t you see how He has sovereignly positioned His Kingdom-people all over the globe to these places where the refugees are headed? Church, can’t you see it??? He wants them, and He will have them! Pray and He will fill your heart with His dreams instead of your own nightmares.
And He will use us to love them. If we will not go to them, He will bring them to us. Ninevah is coming to Jonah. Some of them will go back someday to tell it to the nations there, new and old, and the missionaries will someday hail from their lands to the ends of the earth and remotest islands of the planet. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).
So what now, Christians? Should we build our walls up like Budapest and fortify to keep the evil out? (Oh! Did you forget that the Bible says the evil is IN YOU??) Or MUST we grin and bear this penitent burden regardless. Or do we let them in the borders but never really inside our lives, building wise and temperate boundaries, like mature Chritian soldiers. Can’t we just put them into their own little areas or islands (wait, those are called ghettos) and keep them as separate and as far away from our lives as possible? What shall we do with these refugees?
What if we LOVE them? What if we put our families at utterly foolish risk and love the hell out of these people, whomever God brings across our path? A wise woman of God I know shouted from the City Mission hilltop yesterday, “Ninevah is coming to Jonah!!!!” and I shouted back at her from way in the back because I believe it too. I didn’t see it coming, but I felt it coming, if that makes any sense. It was like her words activated something secret agent-like within me. He has been preparing my soul and my husband’s and children’s souls for this our entire lifetimes. And we’re gonna love them. Me and mine are sold on Love. It’s insane when you realize that He really does have a plan, and you are a tiny person on a speck of it, but it’s plenty enough reason for living. It feels so, so good, those moments when you know that. It’s so much easier to love on those days.
We Christians have been so afraid to go THERE, to minister to THEM. You really kind of had to be either an adrenaline junkie or a real bleeding heart to even want to be a missionary to the Middle East in these Days. So we just went other places mostly. Truth. We didn’t even need to feel bad because we have to obey the government anyway, of course. That’s Scripture, right? And the Government says we’re not allowed to go there. So there’s really nothing we can do. That’s that.
But God has a plan, and it is a beautiful plan and He will finish it! He is finishing it! In case you are not familiar with what God’s ultimate dream is, allow me to put this both authoritatively and humbly: He will inhabit his throne room with human beings from every tribe and tongue and every nation and people; from every shade every human being He created; every tenor and timbre and tone of voice, and all to proclaim jubilantly in a choir of holy harmony:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and glory and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”
That really is the dream. That is where this thing is going. If you’re not on board with that, I don’t know what to tell you except GET ON BOARD. This is not about you or me. The Bible is VERY CLEAR that this is where we’re heading.
So back to the Refugee Crisis, can we not see how beautiful this is what He has orchestrated? I can’t believe how it took me by surprise! I’ve read about this! He has done it before in history—more than once even—misplaced a huge group of people who formerly had no access to the Gospel and planted them somewhere where they could have access to the Good News and/or the freedom to worship Him. It’s just one of His many ways, but it is indeed one of His ways.
If we want to be a part of this thing (and we do!!), we must own our ugly white history: abhorrent injustice (rape and murder to be counted among them) have been inflicted by the receiving, too-often culturally imperialistic Christian community—far, far too many a time throughout “missional” history. We must mourn with weeping and gnashing of teeth that this has happened, and we must stand and demand that it absolutely will not happen on our watch. And we must simultaneously bow down with awe that even in the midst the worst imaginable affliction and oppression, God’s Gospel does not fail. He had prepared the soil of African men and women and childrens’ souls so they could become greenhouses for beautiful Gospel lives. It is offensive to me to learn that African slaves might have first heard of Jesus from the white lips of their crooked abusers; nonetheless they heard of Jesus and then held onto Him tight. Many times throughout history, in fact, God has brought Ninevah to Jonah. He is bringing in the nations, Christians, just like He said! This is ALL OVER THE BIBLE. He is bringing in the nations!!! Hear the bells?? I am actually laughing out loud right now as I write.
So what do we do?? Love the hell out of them, that’s what! Without suspicion or cynicism, the way He loves us every day and fueled by that kind of lavish love, we do this thing. This is our moment. (The only tricky thing here that loving like THAT requires for us to be daily and hourly and momentarily empowered by the Holy Spirit of Christ! Do not try this at home if you cannot concede to spend much of your day in prayer! Too-tender knees will not survive or thrive in the coming world.)
Loving the hell out of them is going to look a whole lot different for each of us—young, old, spritely, disabled, single, married, childless, mother, father, doctor, lawyer, engineer, speech pathologist, teacher, preacher—YOU DO YOU. Oh my gosh, if we could each just really sink the fantasy island where we have to somehow supernaturally curate with the blood, sweat, and tears of tedious lives this freak of a human being who is the compilation of the twelve best characteristics of the twelve best people we know. CAN WE STOP THAT PLEASE?? Serious props to Jen Hatmaker for sticking words on that yearning for me. Thank you, sister.
So again, what do you do??? YOU DO YOU. You do YOU, flaws and scars and all; you love God the very best you can; you love your family and your friends and your neighbors and every stranger who comes across your path; you be sure and take new paths often. You lavish love on people in the way that is just uniquely, awesomely YOU, empowered by Christ within you. If you haven’t figured out what that looks like yet, maybe drop everything you’re doing to fast and pray until He show you. Is that crazy for me to suggest that? I’m totally serious. Like stop your life if you need to.
It’s GO TIME. Either feed the faith or feed the fear. Whichever one you feed is the one that’s gonna show its face in crisis time. Choose you this day. As for me and my house, we’re gonna love the hell outta them.