Monday, November 23, 2015

I am a person, not an animal

“I am now confident and strong. I know I am a person, not an animal. My wound, my deep wound, is also my strength, because it makes me help others … those who bear scars must help the wounded.”

Would you guess this is a quote from an Iraqi woman, a rape victim, a former prostitute who has spent the past nine years rescuing women trapped in the horror of sexual violence that exists in Baghdad? I wouldn’t have. 

I left out part of the quote from an article that appeared in The New Yorker, October 5, 2015 “Out of Sight” by Rania Abouzeid, the part where she says, “Sometimes I don’t think it can be stopped.” When she sees victims, “I feel like my insides are ripped open. I am hurt witnessing this” (During the interview she was called to the scene where a woman had been dragged from her home and shot in the street because she worked in a brothel.)  
Illustration by Aude Van Ryn

And yet, in the face of what seems completely hopeless she continues her work because “my wound, my deep wound, is also my strength, because it makes me help others.”

We’ve lately heard and read much about women who are beaten, starved, murdered, forced into slavery, marriage, or who are sold to brothels or must choose prostitution and its terrifying risks in a Muslim culture just to support their children..

I can’t imagine. And can only pray and pray for them and the world – that God would soon come to them with all the power and might he holds against evil – and his great and mysterious ability to be both just and merciful at the same time. Unlike myself who would like to simply kill where I saw fit and be done with it.

I can’t imagine being Layla whose suffering has become her motivation, even her conduit for helping others. She’s not the pitiful, self-focused loser I might become. No.

I can’t imagine. And yet I can. In my small way. I am drawn to this woman and her wise words because somehow she speaks across oceans of divide to touch our own lives. To whatever degree we bear wounds, if we can remember who we are – humans bearing God’s image, persons, not animals, that in Christ we can be strong and confident –  “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him.” (II Pet. 1:3) This will enable us to live lives that are meaningful.

So here’s the thing: If what I do, however small and seemingly insignificant to others springs out of my own suffering (again, even if comparatively small to Layla’s) isn’t that the gift or at least part of the gift I am to give to others? “Those who bear scars must help the wounded.” We all bear scars. So, if I walk out of this office and plan our Thanksgiving meal with love and thought for this small group of people who will gather with us, including our granddaughter who has her own past wounds from holidays gone awry, won’t that be doing what I can to lift a corner of darkness here, where I live?

Layla is my hero. I pray God will guard her steps and protect her heart and all the women she rescues.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Where the wild ducks are

  Whether we look far away or close at hand – from France to the people of our hearts, we long for peace. We long for hope.

For a few days of solitude, I’ve come away to a quiet place. Perhaps I will find headspace to write again.

I’ve watched the wild ducks gather at the bottom of the lawn. In a puddle spread before the shore a family of mallards nibble and nibble on something under the water. Roots? Chickweed? They ruffle their tails and preen their breasts, comfortably relaxing into the soggy grass as if into a hot spa. A female scolds a male and he sprints from her clacking beak. After the ducks depart a pair of crows splash into the puddle and then sip their bathwater. A black squirrel runs up and down the oak with mouthfuls of leaves. I see she is building a winter nest as she shapes them into a ragged clump. There is healing in these observations. I waken to more than despair and “forethought of grief.” I do. I am almost happy.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. – Wendell Berry

Mallard Family eating in the rain.