Just about every night, I tuck my oldest son into his bed. We read, we pray, we hug. I leave him to practice independent sleep with the promise to check on him before I get into bed.
By then he’s asleep, so he can’t see, but I keep my promise every night. I go into my son’s room to gently kiss his forehead or his cheek. As I do, I whisper to him.
I love you.
I hope we leave a better world for you.
Inside, beneath the whisper, I wonder what kind of world there will be when my sons are grown.
What kind of world are we creating for you, my son?
What will be left for you when you are grown?
Will me and my peers be those of whom you can be proud? Or will we be worth of your scorn?
I wonder if people will care about each other and if that care will translate into action. I wonder if people will be courageous, if they will be loyal. I wonder if they will be governed by kindness or by fear. I wonder if they will be driven to acquire power, or to effectively serve. Will they pander to the powerful or nurture the weak.
The refugee mess is all up in my head. I am heartsick and distressed and angry that we could have even gotten here.
How could a people so thoroughly fear and hate another? How could that people’s government have developed to where they are poised to unleash uninhibited terror on the helpless and innocent?
Anxiety. Racing thoughts. Disappointment.
Of course we should welcome the refugee and the immigrant. Those who, in the Old Testament, would have been called the Stranger. The people of God were to take in the stranger and care for them because once upon a time, they were strangers in a strange land, enslaved and oppressed. The people of God were to be driven by empathy and compassion.
Once upon a time those traveling to settle and establish America were immigrants, refugees, people fleeing oppression and tyranny, searching out a place to carve out a new life, and more than a new life for themselves – they build a way of life for many generations to come.
They build so much, but they started as a people with no place.
Of course we should be careful. Of course we should be safe. Of course we should have in place adequate defenses to actual terror. Adequate.
We destroy ourselves when we are driven by fear.
We Americans ought to be a people driven by empathy and compassion.
Instead we are driven by fear and desire. We want what we want and fear that which presents even the possibility of taking it away. We want our money, our weapons, our comforts, our privileges, our opportunities, our rights.
Being a people primarily concerned with our own selves, we are a people divided. When we are primarily occupied with our own gain, anyone who poses a barrier to that gain becomes the enemy and the target of hate.
Most of us hate someone. Possibly because most of us don’t really know or understand each other.
The worst part is that I can’t blame the government, or even their most conspicuous figurehead. We as a people created this culture of fear, of hatred, of self-serving. We just tend to be divided about that which we fear, hate, or long to acquire for ourselves.
My dear son, what kind of world is out there waiting for you?
I often wake up anxious, knowing the darkness that is out there everywhere, knowing I have privilege and resources, knowing I should be doing something. I feel the relentless pressure to produce, to create, to challenge, to articulate. And I try, and I get tired and overwhelmed. I end up feeling paralyzed, unable to speak or form coherent thoughts, unable to really help anyone.
I need some air.
I need some sleep.
I need to run.
I need to scream.
I need to remember…
I’m not alone. There are others like me who see and are grieved. There are precious few others who walk between, who see both sides of any argument, and care deeply for the people polarized.
Corruption has an end. The wicked fall. Maybe not in my lifetime, but someday.
The Kingdom advances. Like yeast, like a mustard seed. Perhaps like ivy through wood paneling, or like a tree root beneath a sidewalk. Little by little, slowly by slowly, act of compassion by voice of truth by stand for justice, the Kingdom of God goes forth.
Christ is real. And in Him and Him only do I have ultimate hope. People fail. Governments fail. Human systems fall away. Only Christ endures.
And in Christ, I find a call to action. Guidance for how to carry myself through dark and tumultuous times. He has a nature and a distinct character, one that is marked by mercy and truth, grace and peace, healing and justice. That which is in accordance with His nature is to be supported. That which contradicts is to be opposed.
I can rest in obedience to Christ, even if I must contradict culture, even if I must resist government, even if I must make great personal sacrifice. I can rest in this obedience because I know I am bit by bit being conformed to His image.
I wonder what kind of world I am leaving for my sons. What kind of world we are leaving for our children.
I cannot afford to wait for someone else to take action and create a better world for my children. I must be the one to teach my sons to be kind, to be truthful, to be faithful, to be just, to be brave. Ultimately to create goodness around them for themselves.
You must be the ones to teach your children the same.
The better world, the Kingdom, advances one child at a time.
Sleep soundly, my son. Know you are loved.