Its dark outside, and by dark I don’t mean the kind of dark that you and I are used to, I mean the kind of dark that happens when your whole neighborhood’s power goes out and the stars light up like a beautiful three dimensional painting that only God could dream of. One that when you look at it you can only take in a tiny fraction of the deep beauty that goes on into infinity.
I kissed our kids goodnight a little bit ago, and on the way downstairs I noticed our neighbor out the window, the mother who lives alone with her two young children in a partially completed home that the owner is letting her squat in until the construction is finished. A small fire flickered in the center of the room and casts an orange glow onto the bare cinder block walls and exposed wood ceiling. I instantly look down at the flashlight in my hand, the one that I bought back in America along with eight more just like it and I feel guilty.
I wonder how a God who created the beautiful heavens above could also put this woman in a place so different from my family, how some people suffer through life day in and day out just because of where they were born. How even after having tried to help this mother in every way we could think of that would not make things worse, she has somehow managed to stay in virtually the same place that she was when we met a year and a half ago.
Earlier while driving with two of my daughters on a road just two minutes from our home I saw a large truck up ahead a short distance from us come to a stop while facing us on our side of the road, at first it seemed to be that he was turning around, but after we got closer I saw that the truck had plowed into a mini bus full of people, I stopped the car next to the accident and realized that another larger dump truck had careened onto the other side of the road and was on its side, the entire front of the truck was smashed completely flat. I turned back to the mini bus just as someone opened the door and four people fell out onto the ground, three of them were clearly dead, while the fourth was moving, but only slightly. And then I notice a leg sticking out from the bottom of the car, someone else who happened to be walking on the sidewalk at the same time the mini bus had been ran over by it.
I knew this spot, an opening in the median at the bottom of a steep hill always made it a bit dicey as people tried to turn around as oncoming traffic had picked up speed from the hill. It’s dangerous, but oh God! Why? I paused in my car and wondered what I could do, I had heard all of the warnings a thousand times, as a foreigner I am to get as far away as an accident as possible or else I risk getting blamed for something I did not do. Although Ethiopians are some of the most peaceful people you have ever meet, this place has a reputation for flaring tempers after tragedy strikes, and the collateral damage is not something that a foreigner would do well to be in the middle of.
And so I drove on, left the scene of what was one of the worst accidents I have ever witnessed in my life, I left people lying on the ground to die as a massive crowd started to form the neighborhood, because I worried about the safety of my two children in the car with me if I offered to help.
And I wonder as I sit here in the dark on this perfectly silent night, how a God who created such a beautiful world could allow such tragedy, how he could be in the middle of this and that at the same time.
It’s not on purpose, but lately I have been ending my blog posts the same way, “God is good”, part of me believes it with my whole entire being, but another part of me wonders why he does things the way that he does, why he allows some people to prosper, while others to fail so miserably, even to the point of starvation.
I am reminded of a verse in Psalms that I read a few days ago.
Let these bones that you have crushed rejoice! Ps 51:8
Only it’s not my bones that are being crushed today, yeah I could whine about a few things, but all my problems are first world problems, but these people, these families who are mourning the loss of innocent people who died in that stupid crash, as I think about the woman next door who struggles to find her next meal, and who more times than one has offered for us to take her children because she worries that she will never be able to provide for them.
Today I am crying out to him as though my bones have been crushed, I am on my knees asking him to bring his presence in the middle of struggle, I am standing with those who hurt and giving my life to help all the more.
I love the way that Shakespeare says it.
Each new morn – New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows – Strike heaven upon the face.
Today I want to strike heaven upon my face, to be reminded that nothing this world offers will ever satisfy, or will ever come to anything but ruin in the end, we were created for heaven, and this place will never be our home.
The hole inside each of us is a God shaped hole, one that is infinitely larger than the sum of this world’s treasures or pleasures. A hole that once filled with Him does not guarantee that we will not suffer, but that we will always have the eternal rock to cling to.
Strike heaven upon the face.