Tragedy is raging around us, and we're not in the very middle of any of it.
But we've got court-side seats to a lot of it. Flames of others' heartbreak and suffering seem to lick at my feet at all times. Medical crises. Home invasions. Mental breakdowns. Violence. Al-Shabab. Threats. Violence. More violence.
And I know that it shouldn't overwhelm me; I am only a minor player in each event. But to be honest, it does. It grieves me, and tires me, and builds up, straw upon straw, on this tired camel.
I was on a business trip last week to an area near Ethiopia, and let me just give a shout-out to those working in that HEAT. Oh. My. Goodness!!!! It was a great trip, but a lot of work and a lot of sweat. Literally.
Lots of sweat.
I was there when the massacre occurred in Garissa, so I watched in remote horror from my hotel room. NOT AGAIN. Please, Jesus, not again. A couple of bales of straw fell as I saw those horrible photos from the aftermath.
And then I developed a case of shingles. No joke. So insignificant next to the horrors at the University. But one more straw.
As my plane landed back in Kenya on Good Friday, my phone blew up with texts and e-mail regarding another horrible situation. Chad and I were up until 2am working on that. Straws.
On Saturday, we spent hours talking about Garissa. And University of Nairobi. And the church service there on Easter Sunday, where Chad needed to bring a message of hope and forgiveness and life defeating death. And if it made sense to take our family there, given the threats that Garissa was just the beginning of attacks against Universities in Kenya. And we agreed we would go. That could be a whole blog entry itself, but suffice it to say Straws.
That night, Chad woke up with severe pain, taking his breath entirely away. I had the opportunity to practice my NP skills and see a massively positive Murphy's sign (definitely gallbladder attack!) So off to the ER we went, with a dear friend willing to come over at 1am and sit in our cold living room in case our kids woke up.
Unfortunately, or fortunately? the ultrasound and blood work was entirely normal. "Acalculous Biliary Colic" sounds much fancier than it is. Basically, it's a gallbladder attack with no evidence of one! Super fun. Starting to feel like the straw-man by this time.
Sunday morning the kids woke as if nothing was wrong, excited for Easter. I stumbled out of bed, having had 3 hours of sleep, and got a pathetic breakfast of cold cereal on the table. No way Chad was preaching, so he called his guys. No problem, they said. We'll hold service without you, they said.
Worship will go on.
But I wasn't really worshiping. I was thankful for Jesus and all, and I was repeating over and over in my head, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow," but it was more a desperate plea than worship. Like, "Please. Can you help me face tomorrow?" "Please, can I feel like I'm alive as well????" Then add on top of that the guilt for an entirely non-intentional holy week for the kids, and no special meal, and not even church?!?!?!? I wondered what it will actually feel like when the camel's back breaks.
At noon, as I was contemplating if Easter lunch should be PB &J or toasted cheese, our college guys called again. They wanted to come over and pray for Chad. So sure enough, 8 guys trooped over across town, bringing a guitar and their worship.
And suddenly, church came to us. There in our living room, groggy and overwhelmed and sleep deprived and discouraged, they prayed for us, and they sang Luya and Swahili worship songs, and we laughed and talked and just enjoyed being together. Chad had a chance to encourage them with the words he'd wanted to share. Conversation naturally drifted to life-on-life topics like dating, and future wives, and parenthood. Man, that's where discipleship HAPPENS!!!
I whipped up a couple batches of home-made cinnamon rolls, and we had enough dyed eggs to share, and they had brought fresh tropical bananas as a gift to us...and we put it all together for the most blessed Easter lunch I can remember.
And isn't that the real message of Easter? When the new dresses and the honey-baked ham and chocolate bunnies melt away, isn't it all about blessings in the midst of tragedy? Hope when everything seems hopeless? Forgiveness when that seems impossible? The Church being the extension of Jesus Himself, to come to us in our times of need?