“WTF is happening to our world, Julie?!?” the text message said.
The message was from a dear friend and treasured colleague and came after yet another act of senseless violence and bloodshed had been reported on the news. I think it was Munich. But it could have been anywhere. Because every damn day it seems we wake up or go to sleep with news that someone, somewhere, has taken gun or knife or explosives to a group of innocents and let loose fury and pain.
Good lord it’s awful. It’s too much. It begs questions that cannot be answered and it fosters fear and anxiety in ways that are so hard to combat.
In my own corner of the world, it’s the dog days of summer–hot and humid and long days weighing down on you, the pressure in the air enough to make you want to give up and retreat until fall comes. And these dog days, they mirror for me the pressure and anger of a world that often seems bent on chaos and destruction. Things feel hot. Angry. Anxious. Like any minute another horrifying shoe will drop and our collective fear will be affirmed.
A friend of ours gave my daughter a book this week. It’s a book about feelings, about the things we harbor in our hearts. Curly Girl loves it and wanted to read it to me for her bedtime story. As she finished, I asked, “What do you think your heart is feeling these days?”
Long pause, in which I wondered if I was asking too much of her, given the awfulness she’s endured this summer.
And then…”Brave,” she said, quietly.
And so we talked about that, and I wanted her to know that yes, she has been very brave, and I am so very proud of her. But I also wanted her to know that she does not have to be brave, that no one is expecting that of her, that it’s okay if she isn’t so brave some days.
(Perhaps I was saying this more to myself, but, well…you get the point.)
And then she said, “Yes, Mommy. I know. This is very hard. But, you know, life is still good.”
Life is still good.
And so on the one hand, the world is a terrifying place, and all over it, in every place you can imagine, men and women and children cry out in pain and heartache, keening from the depths of tragedy their despair.
And on the other hand, life is still good. So says a nine year-old who has lost her adored father in the most tragic of ways in recent weeks.
I do not know how to hold these two truths together. And yet, I must. Because they are both, in fact, true. Awfulness and beauty dwelling side by side, sometimes even in the same place, the same moment, the same heart. For no identifiable reason other than such is the way of this life we’ve been given, this world we live in.
These things I know, even as I struggle to live in the tension:
- That love always wins. Not always immediately. Not always in ways we’re able to see. But always, in the end, love wins. Over and above all else.
- That goodness is real. And where it is allowed to propagate, gorgeous things happen. That hate is real. And where it is allowed to propagate, fear and anger and heartache rage. Goodness begets goodness. Hate begets hate. This has always been true and always will be.
- That the pain of the world and the pain of my own heart are somehow inextricably linked. I cannot work towards healing one without working towards healing the other.
- That we all matter. So desperately and irrevocably much. We all matter. Period. (And we’d best get to acting as such if we’ve any hope….)
“What’s happening?!?” he asked. “Life is still good,” she said.
Yes. Both these things.
But I believe, with all I am, that she is right. Even as it takes an enormous leap of faith to say so. Even as I have been brought to my knees this summer with things that would say otherwise. Even as NPR and CNN and BBC tell us everyday the contrary. Even as we know the ugliness and horror that riot and leave us so broken and afraid. Even as we face an uncertain future, all of us, because there are no guarantees and we live in that personal and collective reality every single day.
She says so.