Scary stories from a lovely place
Tonight my middle son stayed up late with me while the other two slept peacefully. I caught up on some news and current affairs television from the week, while he flitted around playing trains, reading books and stealing chocolate chip cookies from the kitchen. It was a weird combination of depressing and silly, serious and cute, which made my grief for the condition of the Middle East all the more profound.
As I watched and listened while fixing train tracks I was struck by the sheer injustice of my own son’s peaceful existence and the very unpeaceful lives of the sons and daughters of Palestine. I watched footage of men and grandmothers sobbing and striking their own bodies in rage filled grief and children with bloody holes in their mouths where teeth once were speaking of seeing rockets hit the ground around them and kill their sisters and friends and cousins. One boy from the UN school said he now had no friends to play with and that he wanted revenge for the death of his brother. My own dear son was oblivious to the hideous drama I was watching and carried on innocently with his game, with zero fear of such things.
It’s all just so wrong and unfair. It’s wrong that my family live so easily, with such carefree access to healthcare, food, security and options for the future, while so many people don’t and just won’t know what this feels like ever in their lives. It’s not just Gaza. It’s refugees in detention centres under Australian care. It’s babies starving in Southern Sudan. It’s women facing routine genital mutilation and subservience in Iraq. It’s the Aboriginal kids down the street having a life expectancy a good 20 years less than that of my own kids. I don’t know what the solution is, but I know it’s not right.
One of the books my middle son read tonight is one of my current favourites – it’s called ‘What’s Jesus doing now?’, written by Bob Hartman. It’s quirkily illustrated, brief in word content and laden with good truths and affirming moments for kids. Unlike most Christian kids books there’s little emphasis on ‘be good like this bible character was(n’t)’ and instead heavy focus on the goodness of God. One of the last pages has a street scene with men, women and children joyfully walking towards the next page, where Jesus is sitting and talking with kids of all ages. It’s a picture of when Jesus’ disciples sent away some kids and then Jesus chastised them and said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those kids (Mark 10v13-16).
My kids love this page. There’s a mum holding a baby and I say that’s me and baby Liam. There’s a man holding twin boys and I say that’s their Uncle Stephen. There’s a man with dark hair and a little girl and I say that’s their Uncle Jonathan. There’s a girl with light hair and I say that’s their cousin. There’s two kids doing handstands and I say that’s Silas and Oisín – my dear little boys.
Jesus loves these kids, my sons and nieces and nephews. And he loves the children of Gaza and South Sudan and those refugee kids locked away in remote detention camps. It’s so easy to feel like God isn’t in these disasters, like he has abandoned us to our man-made tragedies. But he hasn’t. I don’t know what he thinks politically about Gaza or refugees in detention (though I could easily make an educated guess) but I know what he is doing. He’s preparing his kingdom for these kids – mine, as well as the innocents and the victims of war (John 14v1-3). He’s praying for these kids (Hebrews 7v25). And he’s longing for peace (Isaiah 9v6) much more than I can.