How do you put into words the anguish you feel when you see an image like the innocence of a five-year-old child like Omran Daqneesh, stripped and bloodied and battered into shock and fear and silence?
When you watch the video of him being pulled from airstrike rubble, a tiny barefoot boy holding back tears and wiping away blood as only a young child does…
I have a five-year-old daughter – five years old, like Omran.
A five-year-old girl who runs in grassy fields and plays on fallen trees in the woods and dances in ballerina leotards. Who draws animals and blows bubbles and is super courageous. Who loves life and people and pets with a passion that is so deep that it’s sometimes overwhelming. Who has had health scares and ER visits and too many doctor appointments this year and sent teeth through her bottom lip last year. Who hangs out in hot kitchens to cook and in veggie gardens to nibble.
But she is a five-year-old who has never faced, thank you Lord, the same devastation and terror-filled fear of the days and the nights that blend together when bombs drop at any time and on anyone, like the dark-laced anxiety that Omran lives every single day.
Who will, please God, never be the international face of a war on humanity and against innocence, plastered across newspapers and TV screens and electronic devices as a gruesome and hurting symbol, like Omran.
Who may one day, please God, become the hands and feet of love toward those, like Omran, who truly are crushed beyond what most of us could imagine enduring.
How do you put into words the soul-wrenching pain of families fleeing in breaking boats on an ocean and countless others who are searching escape and freedom from airstrikes and snipers and bombings that end lives devastatingly early?
When lifeless bodies like three-year-old Aylan Kurdi are found face-down on sandy beaches and lapping waves that beckoned freedom and stole breath instead?
I have a three-year-old daughter – three years old like Aylan.
A three-year-old girl who twirls in the sunlight and skips along sidewalks. Who delights in the stars and the flowers and the bunnies on our porch. Who almost broke her pelvis when sled riding and carried a cross-shaped bruise reminder of the near miss on her head and our hearts. Who loves to help all of the time, with cooking and cleaning and especially brownie-making. Who snuggles on laps and cries out with bad dreams in the night and shares hugs freely. Perhaps like Aylan once did.
But she is a three-year-old who, thank you Lord, will never know what it means to be stuffed into an overcrowded rubber raft with brother and mother and torn from more relatives, while being pushed off into unknown waters toward unforgiving people in foreign lands, like Aylan.
Who, please God, may never cry out in death the despair of a nation and its atrocities and its most innocent of victims like Aylan.
Who, please God, will one day take her heart of gold and her nurturing hands and turn them towards mending the broken hearts of the many who desperately need her now, like Aylan would have, and will need her more intensely when she is ready.
How do you put into words the tears of a little girl, shed out of utter despair at the loss of her parents and the stabs of sheer hunger from not eating for days while hiding from ISIS on roads of escape into Iraq deserts and unknown futures?
When ISIS doubles back and launches mortars and rockets into refugee encampments again just for fun and spite and body counts of men, women and children?
I have a seven-year-old daughter too – seven years old, perhaps like this little girl.
A seven-year-old girl who is fascinated by all things nature and creature-related. Who swims a strong backstroke and throws a wild baseball pitch. Who almost broke her leg the night before her littlest sister was born and who couldn’t walk for two weeks from the pain and the fear. Who constantly acts as veterinarian and teacher and doctor and dance instructor while directing sisters and telling fantastic stories. Who loves to clean dirty windows and work on vintage cars and cook up new recipes. Perhaps like this little girl.
But my seven-year-old girl will, thank you Lord, never know the angst of being forced through a culture of pre-arranged marriages with elder abusive men who prostitute her body and then blame her for being raped and imprison her or of being sold or given as a sex slave to an ISIS soldier to keep her alive but not whole, perhaps like this little girl.
Who, please God, will never see terror trails behind rocket bombs and shattering of body blasts and explosions of mercenaries in crowded, unsuspecting streets or loving parents sheltering babies from gunfire and military takeovers, perhaps like this little girl.
Who, please God, will never know utter and earth-shaking fear as brutality on giant ISIS truck wheels drives past her young self, lying in a roadside gully to escape the fate given by the whims of those with weapons, perhaps like this little girl.
They are both seven-year-old girls who must choose to love anyway, to love fearlessly, to love relentlessly even in the darkest of hours and in the hardest of times and with the most battered of people.
My girls are not so different from your kids or from these children.
Such wrenching situations and the heart-shredding photos are not about THOSE kids or THAT culture or THESE people. They are about OUR children. OUR people. OUR future. Together.
Race, religion, culture, gender… Why do we let these things divide us? Why do we allow such things to become walls that separate us from each other and only serve to make greater problems? Why do we perpetuate the cycles?
Is this really the way God has called us to live?
Is this really how God would have us raise our children, not just my kids or your kids or their kids, but HIS children?
What future does that make for my 3-year-old, 5-year-old, and 7-year-old daughters or for your sons or daughters or for Omran, Aylan, and the children of the world who are left when fear and violence have raped their childhoods and exploded their hopes of peace and stability?
It is too late for little Aylan, the three-year-old Syrian boy, dead in the sand. It was almost too late for Omran, the five-year-old Syrian boy, bloodied in the rubble. It is hopefully not too late for the little ones in the Iraqi deserts, being bombed and attacked at will.
When will it be too late for them all? Why should we wait until it is too late?
Whether facing a crisis of natural disasters like those in Baton Rouge, in California, or in India… a crisis of human-made proportions in war-ravaged countries like Syria, Libya, or Iraq… a crisis of physical or sexual or emotional abuse or of life-altering tragedy in our homes or our neighborhoods… a crisis of medical diagnoses or addictions or bullying in our schools and communities…
Let us start by bringing it all to the throne of the Lord Almighty, whose Power and Love and Mercy and Grace is always more than enough for each and every situation.
Let us start by joining together in prayer for peace and mercy to fill all of our children, all of GOD’s children, near and far, whose hearts and hopes and lives are threatened in a myriad of ways every single day.
Let us not let it end there. Let us put hands and feet to our voices and prayers.
Let us walk His LOVE into every situation we face, of every proportion. Let us be His Love, for our children’s sake, for our future’s sake, for our Lord’s sake.
Let us BE LOVE.
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
8 For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
For more information on how YOU can help those children and families displaced by wars around the world, the Preemptive Love Coalition is an amazing organization that is serving as the hands and feet in the midst of conflict, pain, and despair in such places as Syria, Iraq, and Libya. Learn more about their important work and how you can help… http://www.preemptivelove.org/
(For the record, I receive NO compensation for endorsing the Preemptive Love Coalition. I just think that what they do is incredible, and I’m humbled to support their work and their love.)