I’ve struggled this year with a heaviness in my heart. For our country. For our world. For so many stories I hear. Our country’s position on immigrants and refugees shocked me. The blanket laws created with what seemed like cavalier strokes of a pen.
Then Lent started.
I began to ask myself about Lent’s purpose. What can I give up? What can I sacrifice? How do I include more people who are unwanted in my life?
The four stories reminded me of the realities of so many people. Me, uprooted from my familiar culture, about to give birth to my first child (which I did in a German hospital). Ovidios and Tania fearing for their lives and the life of their toddler, seeking shelter in an unforgiving land. My mother-in-law, experiencing un-welcome in the land of the free because she grew up in a country on the wrong side of history. My father, whose new land welcomed him because he came from an Allied country **
Yet all of us shared similar fears, similar hopes, similar longings of home. While all of the stories I shared came legally into the new lands, we cannot discount the similarities that un-documented immigrants face. I cannot fix the laws, or even begin to debate the complexities. All I can do is put a face to the people who just want to keep their families safe, put food on the table, earn a living wage. In exploring the four stories, I hope to shed just a little light on the human faces of the ones we turn away in the name of Law. To spark just a little compassion that these people are not an ‘issue’; but living, breathing beings that feel the rejection and the desperation of making a new start in life–often leaving everything behind. We may not be able to welcome everyone into our country for citizenship; however, we can treat all humanely–with dignity, compassion, civility.
And then, in the course of Lent, bombs exploded in Syria because the ones we refused entry and safe haven died in a chemical weapons attack in the civil war.
The ones we denied safe haven, suddenly received empathy from our government?
The ones we sent back to the war-ravaged country, suddenly our government deemed valued?
Yes, I continue to struggle (can you tell?).
My daughter recently preached a sermon about the man born blind in John 9. She focussed on how Jesus basically tells his disciples they’re asking the wrong questions. They treated the man like a theological issue. Jesus treated him like a person. He spoke of God’s goodness when he proclaimed, ‘His blindness cannot be explained or traced to any particular person’s sins. He is blind so the deeds of God may be put on display’ (John 9:3). This man who had lost community-life because they deemed him ‘unclean’ received welcome and honor from Jesus.
You see, this is the sacrifice of Christ. To make the unwelcome, welcome. To see the individual pieces and not just the big picture. To know that we need everyone for the Body of Christ to work as God intended. To hold governments accountable in how we treat others seeking a safe haven. To remember that we are all aliens and foreigners in this land.
The Lenten beauty is making ourselves aware of our humanity. “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return.”
We are all in this together. And we all share space on this same planet. Look for an opportunity to offer someone welcome.
I welcome comments! Please keep them respectful and constructive.
**(a side-note, my father corrected me when I said that Manchester was the 2nd most bombed area in England. It was one of the most bombed; but others like Coventry and Liverpool were decimated. I made a correction in my post).