I wrote, back on January 16, about the Haiti earthquake – the horror of it all, but also the very real reminder that it had become of what sort of life we’re really called to as believers…how it felt unifying somehow. And at the end of that post I spoke of my fear that we would inevitably slip back “into the mundane of ‘normalcy’ like moth to flame” and forget that the story is still being told. We are on the precipice. Haiti is, sadly, no longer a front-page headline in the media, or in our hearts I fear. (I suppose I should only speak for myself, but I feel more ashamed when I do). The truth is, it’s not that we’ve totally forgotten – most of us still pray for and think of the people of Haiti fairly often – but if we’re honest, it doesn’t captivate us like it did, to say the least. But that’s the way it always seems to go with tragedies, isn’t it? I don’t know if it’s some sort of coping mechanism to deal with the notion that the very same heaviness that so beautifully brought our hearts to bare might just turn out to be too heavy to keep carrying. Maybe so. But I do know that the heaviness is only beginning to bare itself out in Haiti…it’s still brand new there because it’s still all they can see when they wake up each morning – and will be for some time to come. And even though I am compelled to say that we MUST fight the temptation to “move on” from Haiti, my writing today is not meant to be a guilt-laden plea to do so. I am leaning more today towards the condition we find ourselves in when we fear or find that we have moved on from such things. I wrote back in January that for all the heartache that the earthquake in Haiti had brought, that, for me, it also ushered in a sense of purpose and cohesion:
“I know this is sadly selfish, but I felt very “necessary” this week, if that makes any sense. Not because I felt like I could change the world but because I felt like I was a part of it. I felt, in a very deep and visceral way, a certain sense of purpose. I felt like I belonged to a body of believers that was actually living the cause of Christ out in the open, unashamed. If one can be found at all, I think that can be the “blessing” of tragedy: that we can, in a moment, identify with the pain of an entire people that most of us had given little thought to before, and that we even feel like we belong to that pain somehow. That we feel like we belong to the ancient and shared mission of serving that pain with the cause of Christ. That we feel like we belong to the long-told story of brokenness and redemption. That we feel like we belong. Period.”
And then you wake up a day later, a week later, or a year later, and you somehow feel alone again. Far from the emotion and pull of a tragedy that’s no longer on the news every day, we begin to lose the connection with that moment, and even the connection with the body of Christ. Even with a house full of children and laughter and marriage, or a community full of friendship and goodness, or a country where we are given every opportunity on the planet to “mean” something if we want to. Even still, there is always just you, not quite understood, not quite understanding. There is the inevitable return to the island of isolation, in the long boring middle. As one of my old favorites, John Gorka, sings, “the meantime is a mean time and we know it….” And as I’ve said a thousand times, that is where the battle of faith is most viciously fought. In the mundane. In the ordinary.
The mundane has not arrived back in Haiti yet, and perhaps it is only beginning to re-arrive for us. It would certainly do us well to not forget to find a way, ANY way at all, to serve the people of Haiti today, but I also think we should fight to not forget the truth that we have tapped into in this tragedy. The truth that we are not alone. The truth that we are not isolated and estranged orphans, but are indeed a part of a body of believing people that want desperately to live the cause of Christ. I would never dare say that faith is easy in the face of tragedy, but I will say that we, all of us, feel significantly smaller in such times, which, if you ask me, is the yeast of faith. We are forced to recognize that despite our clawing and conniving and confidence, we simply are not in control, that there are things out there bigger than we are, more powerful. We are reminded in the face of tragedy that we, all of us, must rely on something or someone other than ourselves, bigger than ourselves, and again, more powerful. But the challenge of faith when we edge back toward the normal, toward the mundane, is to remember that we are not called to be the center of our world, but rather to center our world on the needs of the people around us.