It was the summer after my freshman year of high school. Rumors of the Blair Witch Project spread like wildfire, permeating the air of my gospel-centered mission trip with ash and brimstone. We were on a remote island in Honduras—one where Army-style-showers were required and bathing in torrential downpours were optional, where no cars drove (they weren’t allowed) and the nearest “conveniences” were conveniently 2 hours away…by boat.
Night had fallen after a busy day of laborious work laying bricks and painting the broken boards of Oceanside bungalows owned by the residents. And while the sun lit the sky, talk of spiritual warfare and ghosts and all things dark and scary lit our minds and mouths. Quite predictably I was terrified by dusk. The leaders finally noticed that things were awry after the cabins of girls clung to one another like clucking chickens in a robbed henhouse.
The panic was paired with something bigger, deeper, darker. The fear of the unknown took root.
The night ended with a mission-trip storybook ending: we talked, we prayed, we debated, and then we bounced down the stairs and slept soundly beneath our mosquito nets. It was an alarmingly innocent taste that there was something much bigger than me at work in the World. Casper the Friendly Ghost had been thrown out with the Golden Books and Cinderella-dreams.
I don’t normally struggle with anxiety, probably due to some clunky combination of faith and forced training. Maybe it is because I’ve finally made 30 trips around the sun that I consider myself seasoned enough to take life as it comes. Maybe we can equate it to the innocent fears of spiders and spindles and dark hideways, or ankle-grabbers and Monsters in the closet of the bygone days of childhood—as if those unknown’s threw callouses over my fright of that- which-is-bigger.
The truth is that I probably don’t struggle much with anxiety because I like to hermit-hole myself away in my own little world. My corner of the great USA is quite cozy, thankyouverymuch. I stopped watching the news when Jon was deployed and never started again—I find it depressing. Aside from a few distracted glances at the stories floating around social media (all laden with fact, I’m certain), I generally miss ALL THE MEMOs on all the flashy headlines.
Like ISIS. And Ebola. And genocide. And Death with Dignity. And preventable diseases in first world, educated countries.
Because instead of those sad realities that I’d rather not think about, this corner of my hermit world is filled with pumpkin scented candles and fall wreathes and baking cookies and organic apples. Here, there are toddler giggles (and tantrums) and clean rags to wipe snotty noses with. Here, the tickle monster comes to visit each night instead of the monsters of mankind and I tuck our children into cozy beds with Downy-infused fleece blankets instead of tucking them into makeshift wooden boxes laid deep beneath the ground.
Sometimes it is easier to hole-away than let the stinging reality of LIFE burn a hole in your heart.
In the corner of my world, the heat is from our furnace, blood is patched with Mickey bandaids, and my God is one who calls me to greater things and then “blesses” me with a padded grocery budget and streak-free windows.
But the World is bigger than me, darker and deeper. And the reality of the depth of despair experienced by most of the world on a daily basis has taken root somewhere across the seas, spreading its seed to my corner of the world.
Their heat is from blazen rockets, ricocheting off century-old buildings and crumbling livelihoods and memories. Their blood is shed from sword, sweat, and solidarity to religion, to race, to riches. And their God is one who bridges the gap, feeds the hungry, clothes the poor and bends low to the desperate in prison, in poverty, and in perishing.
How small I consider Him. How much I have shrunk His power.
If only there were happy endings and mosquito nets for us all. If only the world’s children could be protected by prayer, innocence saved from reality, and the ledgers of the faithful transformed from meager intentions to eager realism. The truth is that my blessings are backed by privilege and geography. Because of where I was born, my life looks very different than theirs. And because of what I have been given, my faith looks very different than theirs.
So we go on, habits forming livelihoods and decisions pouring the foundations of our days. And life goes on, too. Sometimes gracefully. Sometimes full of deflation and despair. And sometimes we feel all the feelings—too much, too little, or maybe just enough—just in time to let the One who is Greater lead us, mold us, carry us.
And when we all disagree—among the states and the red and the blue and the Christians and the atheists—when we all feel we are more right, more sound, more knowledgeable, maybe we the Believers can consider Him. And His Cross. And his Ghost. And we can let that Jesus who lives in our hearts find a candle to light a fire there. Let a flame burn to inspire, to stretch, to take in all the World in the shadow of All His Glory. And then, maybe we too—the ones with the birth certificates that read “privileged” and the Mickey bandaids will be the careful feet and calloused hands who mend and feed and clothe and bend lower than ever before.
The world will always be bigger and darker and deeper than us.
And God will always be bigger and brighter and stronger than It.