Thursday, April 11, 2013

How do we stand?

It was a fine cry, loud and long. It had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.
-Toni Morrison, from Sula

via Pinterest

I read this book, and I’m still recovering. Recovering emotionally, intellectually, theologically. It was one of those rare reads, full of data and story and a call—a higher call, to something, to someone.

I have fought against my sensitivity my entire life. I have pushed it down, willed myself to stop feeling, to quit being so emotional about every perceived wrong, every injustice. It will crush you, it will crush you, I have heard the voices murmur. My reactions to certain things seem outsized in comparison to those around me. I have walked out of church services, meetings, when they began to talk about poverty, orphans, hunger, the suffering, the abused. It sounds so terribly callous, but it wasn’t because I didn’t care. It was because I couldn’t breathe, and dropping my face into my hands and sobbing, shaking, didn't seem appropriate.

I have been ashamed, ashamed, of the deep feeling. What good is all of this empathy? It is useless, accomplishes nothing—squash it down. And I have, pretty effectively over the years, in fact. I’ve taught myself how to go numb, to be less affected, to shut it off, to think more practically about it.

I know I am not the first one to struggle with all of this, to wage war against my empathy, the heightened sensitivity that lays me low, curled up on my bathroom floor, crying until my ribs ache.

Here’s the thing, though, and I’m only realizing this very recently—for me, soul-searing emotion precedes action, and maybe that’s okay. It is not weakness, the Father has had to tell me over and over again. You are not weak because you feel. And it thrusts me into the praying place, the longing place, and from there, perhaps I can put my hand to the plow and do something.  

I’m not sure what that something is yet. I know that lately, I feel the weight of my first-world privilege like a burden, heavy. I want to know how I can make the most of it, not take the opportunity that I did not ask for, did not deserve, and squander it. I know that I am incredibly naive in all of this, I feel quite helpless, and yet that cannot be an excuse, as it has been for me in the past.

How do we stand against such injustice? What is there that we can do? These hands, what shall I do with them? Because it could have been me. It could be me. And no, these women are not a charity case, not in that belittling way. They are not just a cause. They are human. They are valuable, and that is enough. They are hurting and aching and oh, I cannot even think of the brutality of it all. It is too much to bear. And God, where are you??

I am almost 27. And while I am not old, I am not young either. I am not a teenager. I am not a child. There is so much need. And I have been given much much much. I dream about them. I cannot stop thinking about them, the girls being sold, traded, sexually exploited at twelve, thirteen, fourteen years old. The girls in their villages, bright, full of potential, denied an education because there is no access, and even if there were, there is no money. The women in Niger, or Sierra Leone, where the maternal mortality rate is so astronomically high it is criminal. If I were a woman, born in Niger instead of the United States, there is a 1 in 7 chance I would have died in childbirth. I cannot stomach it. It nearly paralyzes me.

But I am asking the Lord that it not paralyze me, that I am not completely overwhelmed by the immensity of their need, as is wont to happen to me. No, instead give me something tangible, Jesus. Give me something real. Because this world is full of women, girls, enslaved, disenfranchised, maligned and unrepresented. They are curled up in huts on the edge of their villages, with fistulas caused by brutal rapes, abandoned by their families and left for the wild dogs. They are being doused in kerosene and burned by their husbands for daring to fight back as they were beaten. They are being forced to marry their rapists, the threat of death hanging over them and their families. They are locked up in brothels, their virginity sold to the highest bidder.  

I am no humanitarian. I’m struggling with my what my response ought to be. In all honesty, I am terrified to even be writing this, posting this. It feels like exposure, it feels like nakedness, it feels like vulnerability, shedding skin, and I am afraid.

But maybe there can be some accountability here, an exchange of ideas, of resources, of prayer.

There are no simple solutions. I know this. I am not the solution. But maybe, together, we can be a part of it? Maybe, together, we can make a dent, partner with Jesus and shift the destiny of one woman, two women, a village.

Whatever it may be, and unsure as I am of the way forward, I would really love to hear your thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. This is an inspiring post to read. And Half the Sky appears to be an inspiring book. From the summary, the authors seem to depict the struggles of women abroad and suggest that there are ways that we can help. Both you and the authors of the book appear to care deeply about the plight of our sisters that are suffering globally. It is your empathy that reminds me that I am not the only one who feels deeply for those who were born without privilege and security. It is your desire to help that reminds me that I am not the only one who believes that it is our responsibility to care for those that lack the resources to care for themselves. Much like you I do not know the solutions to these global issues, nor do I feel that I understand the complexity of the problems themselves. But it is my belief that we all can do something, we all can be more aware, and we all can do our part. Your post alone is a step in the right direction. I commend you for talking about real issues and for caring enough about those suffering to mentally challenge yourself and challenge your readers to think about others.


I would love to hear your thoughts.