October dawned with a national tragedy, following a September of natural disasters. I awoke today to a nation that is suffering – suffering from grief, and disbelief, and fear. How much pain can our hearts hold? How much fear can we live with? Is violence and disaster becoming a new normal?
God, help us.
I don’t watch the news in my house. Not because I’m not interested, but because I don’t want my kids to know how scary our world is these days. I don’t want them to live in fear. I don’t want them to give into the distrust and the hatred and the fighting that rise like blinding smoke out of the embers of fear.
God, help us. I don’t want to live like that either.
My three-year-old had her first nightmare the other night. She awoke at 2 AM convinced that the frightening sequence of events she had seen in her dream had really happened. Kevin went to console her when she cried out, and he rubbed her back and said, “Adelaide, that’s not real. That didn’t really happen. You are safe.” She sighed in relief and drifted back to a peaceful sleep.
How I wish we could wake from this nightmare of a world and be told, “That didn’t really happen. You are safe.” But we aren’t sleeping. This is our world. A world of mass shootings and powerful storms, of racial strife and deep divisions. This is real life.
When I was little I had a recurring nightmare. I was stuck in a scary house, chased by a scary monster, and I couldn’t find a way out. One night when I awoke and cried out to my mom, she came to my room and rubbed my back and said, “Laura, that’s not real. But only you can change it. Let’s think up a plan to get out of that house, then you can go back to sleep and do it. Don’t let your nightmare win.”
So I went back to sleep and got out of the scary house and never had that nightmare again.
How I wish fixing the nightmare of reality was so simple. It’s not. But I’ve held onto my mom’s creative wisdom all these years. It gives me strength to keep going when the fear and pain overwhelm me. Broken and messy and frightening as this world is, it is still our world. It is the world God entrusted to us. Only we can change it. We can’t let this nightmare win.
In fact, that’s what God is up to these days. God is working through each and every willing person to change this world from a nightmare into a paradise. You and I get to be a part of that holy, messy work.
Mister Rogers said: When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I hold onto that every time the world scares me. Because it is the helpers who are changing the nightmare. It is the first responders, and the good Samaritans, and the activists, and the regular, ordinary Joe’s who do whatever they can – that is who God is using to stop the nightmare. To usher in paradise. They are the ones who are reminding all of us: Together we can change this. We won’t let this nightmare win.
I don’t know when I’ll let my kids start watching the news. Not any time soon. But I can’t protect them from all the brokenness of this world forever. So in small ways now I will start to teach them the wisdom of Mister Rogers. When they glimpse the pain of this world I will teach them to name the helpers. I will teach them to be a helper. I will teach them to trust that together we can face whatever comes our way.
So here’s to the helpers. Here’s to the courageous, who in big and small ways roll up their sleeves and give themselves in service to others. God, help me to be one of them. I know it will not make the world a less scary place, but it will remind me that God still trusts us with it. This is still our world, and it is still a beautiful world.
God, help us to make it more so.