by Laurie Gudim
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy! – 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
Yesterday morning my granddaughter was attacked by a boy with a knife while she was on the bus going to school. Many of you who read this will have experienced something similar – or your children or grandchildren will have. For my family this is the first time.
My granddaughter’s friend who had been sitting next to her stepped between her and the assailant to defend her, and he was the one who was cut. I am distressed for both these youngsters, and angry and disgusted with the unknown attacker, who was apparently a few years older than they were. And I fear for the safety of everyone I love. It is that kind of incident; it makes me aware how impossible it is to protect anyone.
The world seems to be becoming more threatening – indeed more terrifying – for many of us. On the one hand we tell ourselves that because of mass communication we are just aware of many more situations in which violence plays a major role. But on the other hand, there simply seem to be more instances that affect me or my friends personally.
Whatever the case, people are anxious. As a country we are less certain, more defended, more prone to rage, less trusting.
Yesterday morning, feeling attacked, feeling defenseless, it took me a moment to realize I needed to find my grounding in God. I sat down, took a deep breath, and began to pray. Then, after several more moments, I realized that I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t get beyond my jangle of feeling by myself. I needed others who were grounded in God to be with me before I could find my way there myself.
Here is the challenge for Christian community in this time of fear and uncertainty. We are called to truly love one another. Do we companion one another as we grow deeper and deeper in relationship with the living God? How profoundly do we share? How well do we listen? Do we ask each other the really difficult and scary questions? Do we hold still for the answers that are laced with raw pain and rage? Are we present for one another’s arduous ordeals? Do we really stand with each other through our times of grief?
The community that centers itself in God, praying and learning together – the people who listen well to one another and offer real comfort and support – the group that discusses things with real vulnerability, leaving space for all its members to speak deeply from their hearts – those are churches that are a hope and joy before the Lord. Those are gatherings that can make a real difference in these anxious times.
I imagine them as little lights on the hillsides of the world. The darker things get, the brighter they shine. And the light that glows at their centers is the living hearth flame of the kingdom of God.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.