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I just finished up another book about the Holocaust. I find myself drawn to these books and yet simultaneously utterly horrified by the darkness to be found in this time. As I cried my way through this one, I paused to ask the “why?” question that seems to follow me through every book like this, whether about the Holocaust or slavery in America or any horrible injustice.
Why am I the person who wants to sit with this?
Why am I reading about something so horrible and evil?
Why am I drawn to the horrors of thousands upon thousands of murders?
Why revisit something that is too late to change?
And the answer I came to is this:
I can not change that these things happened.
Everything in me wishes I could.
I wish I could hand a piece of bread through the fence to that hungry child.
I wish I could hide just one family in my house.
I wish I could save even one mother or child or father or grandmother or uncle or anyone from the gas chamber.
I wish I could do something, anything to stop the devastation of families and lives, to stop the countless murders and crimes against innocent people.
But even as I can’t change it, I still have a choice and something to do.
What I can do is decide what I will do with the reality of what happened.
Will I ignore it and dismiss it?
Or will I look it in the face, with tears streaming down my face and ache for what is truly and utterly wrong?
As uncomfortable and awful as it is, I don’t want to be the person who ignores and pretends not to see.
I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t ache just because it didn’t happen to me or someone I know.
I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t crave justice and mercy because I’m too afraid to look at the pain that the evil caused.
And as I sit with these stories of evil days past, I can’t help but see their similarities to things today.
I ache for the starving people of Venezuela, whose own government won’t accept the aid they desperately need.
I ache for the refugees in Nigeria whose children are dying from starvation because corrupt government officials are stealing their food.
I ache for the racial inequality and violence in our own country, this week especially.
I ache for the men and women and children who are sold as sex slaves all over the world, including America.
And I know the list of horrors and devastation and injustice goes on and on and on.
I find that I don’t always know what to do with this ache. I hate to admit that but I don’t.
When I first learned about Venezuela, I hopped on the computer, determined to find some way to help. Whatever extra money I could scrounge up was going towards groceries for these families in the Southern hemisphere. My momma’s heart couldn’t stand the idea of parents not being able to feed their own children, of lying in bed all day just to save calories, of babies dying because groceries cost four times what a family can make in a month.
But I was heartbroken that I couldn’t find anything to do. I couldn’t find any way to help.
I looked and looked, but the answer felt the same: the country is closed to any kind of aid. I sank in my seat,and thought, “what now?”
And the Lord whispered to my heart that prayer is something.
Saying something is something.
Caring and noticing is something.
Showing up is something.
So, although it wasn’t the solution or help I hoped to give, I sat in my chair, crying and praying for these people. I wrote a post on Facebook, hoping to let people know about this injustice that is getting so little news coverage.
And it may not feel like the something I want or the something that solves everything, because it simply isn’t. But I don’t think the Lord is calling me to those big things (whatever they are), at least not today.
But the praying and saying something and caring and noticing, those matter.
They matter because I’m showing up.
They matter because they get my heart ready for whenever the Lord has something else for me to do.
They matter because they say that I see you and your hurt, and so does the Lord. He is the God who sees.
I’m not perfect at this by any means. I have a prayer calendar through Compassion that I work on praying through every day, but some days I forget. And I struggle with the guilt that bombards me every time I miss, but I’m working to not let that stop me from showing up and praying after the day (or few) that I miss.
I feel vastly aware of how ignorant I am as to the pain and struggles of people different than me and it scares me. It scares me to think of how little I know, and that has stopped me in the past from showing up.
But as I closed that book this week, I felt my soul recommit itself to justice.
I felt my soul saying, let’s not let fear and failure keep us from doing what is right.
I felt my soul grieve and ache for what should be grieved and ached for.
I felt the Lord remind me that he is fond of using cowards and failures.
He reminded me that he likes to use the weak and the scared ones to do his kingdom work.
And that means I have all the qualifications for showing up.
I have a feeling you might too.
I don’t plan on stopping reading books about the Holocaust anytime soon.
I think my heart needs them.
Just like it needs to know about the awful things that are going on in our world.
If I don’t know about them, I can’t pray or care or show up to do anything.
And I may be too late to do anything about the Holocaust, but I certainly am not too late to do something about injustice, even if all I have to do today is pray and say something; care and show up.