Thoughts on Fighting Evil

WarThis past week, I went to a summit for orphan care in Chicago put on by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. I came away from it with truly mixed emotions. It is such a daunting thing, to be in a war. But I cannot lay down my arms in defeat in the middle of the battle.

Thoughts of the ones I fight for were never far from me. Soccerboy. Sunshine. Sprite. Picassa. The new dear girls coming this summer. My own Little Man.  How can I look in their eyes and say I quit? I cannot say, “You know, this is hard. I don’t like the drama I have to deal with because of this war. I don’t like having to defend myself and my choices. I don’t like looking into all this hopelessness. It would be so much easier to just close my eyes and ears. I’d rather walk away from people I disagree with instead of fighting next to them and working so hard to make us both more effective in the fight.”

That’s like saying, “I love you, but only as far as it doesn’t make it difficult for me.”

But it is difficult. Fighting a war like this is exhausting. There’s so much pain, so much darkness, so much broken. So much Evil.

But, as Mrs. Which points out in A Wrinkle in Time, “There will no longer be so many pleasant things to look at if responsible people do not do something about the unpleasant ones.”

And so I stand in my little space and fight to push back the Darkness.

What a joy it was to join with the others in what often feels like a solitary struggle. Gathering together with so many people—thousands of them—who share in this desire to help the vulnerable among us was refreshing and exhilarating.

What I found most encouraging was seeing the multitude of ways people were working to serve. Like a prism, each group refracting the problem in their own way and working hard to turn lives into something beautiful: these ones concerned for orphans with HIV, those for the ones with special needs; domestic care over here, global initiatives over there. And there was room for us all. Every one mattered. Each one shining its light against the broken and the darkness.

So much sadness. So much broken. In the world. In our lives. But hope shining as well.

On Saturday, New Horizons for Children had a mini-retreat, and we spent part of the day sharing our own stories, the ones that led us to care for orphans in this way, with this organization. Listening to those stories, I was moved. Here is a group of people not willing to wallow. Not willing to just fight for a season and then move on. Here is a group of people who see the darkness, and do not flinch from it.

We each revealed pieces of our own lives. We each told of how we wanted to shine against darkness and, often, of how we wanted to bring something beautiful out of our own broken. And it was worthwhile to hear. It was remarkable. I live a quiet life, one that feels hopeless at times. What am I, this mess of a human? Who am I, that I can make a difference? And yet, I was here with these people, messy too, working together for a common goal.

Since I’ve come home from Chicago, I’ve worried out my words from the weekend. Over and over, as I do. This one, awkward. That one, harsh. This pile…oh, the depth of complaint. Why did I phrase it this way? Why did I reveal that? Did I use too many words? Too few? Was the heart of who I am obscured by my own flailing attempts to try to find my place among these people?

I often felt like I didn’t fit. Like I was saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. I stumble over a personality befitted with a tongue that often trips me like an ill fitting shoe. My hexagonal edges are all pointy and jabby.

But then I remember their stories. Their own struggles. And I wonder how they processed these things. Maybe they feel that way, too. Maybe they didn’t even notice my own unease because they were so aware of their own.

And I think, how does this work? How can this organization come together as we trip over ourselves? How can we move in solidarity when we are all so weak?

It seems like a futile exercise, this caring for the orphaned ones. This working with others who are broken. This sounding of a barbaric yawp and hearing an empty echo across a chasm of darkness.

It will never be fixed perfectly. It will never be solved neatly. Evil pervades even the most noble of causes.

And yet there we were, at the end of a conference built upon the premise that we should stare into great darkness and believe that we must continue the fight. As a group, we fight our own mini-battle. We press against selfishness and hurtful words and inept actions and broken people speaking out of broken places.

We fight it all the time within ourselves, too.

0503142012 2And so together we serve. Saturday night, we walked together in downtown Chicago. We went to Willis Tower and I stood on the glass and I got dizzy looking down. I had the sensation of falling while standing on something solid.

And I thought, isn’t that what this life is all about? This living? This working together with others, even when we don’t agree on everything?

Sometimes it is the sensation of falling. Of hopelessness. Of dizzying depths of broken.

But we have to remember that what we stand on is solid. Invisible. But there. Holding us up. The One who knows the depth of Evil and Broken holds us safe, even when we think we are going down.

And later, we sat together for many hours, these people I have come to love, and we shared and we despaired, and we wrestled, and we raged. And we hoped. For change. For peace. For unity against an Evil that is all the more pervasive because it can so easily slip into our souls if we let it.

But it is what we choose to do in the face of Evil that matters. It may pervade and destroy, but it will not overcome. Its power is an illusion. I want to choose to trust the One who holds me up more than despair over the illusion of falling.

And so I flew home, full of the awareness of Evil, but more aware of the hope that standing firm brings.

We cannot give up in the face of dizzying difficulties we see in the world, in the organizations we serve, even in our own lives. We are not called to impossible tasks without the surest strength to uphold us.0503142011b 2

Things may not change as quickly as we like, or even in the way that we like. We might get hurt. We might lose things we love. People we love. Others might misunderstand. Lash out. Try to break us. Our hardest efforts may appear to be simply wiping away a teardrop from an ocean of pain.

But that teardrop matters. The words we speak, the truth we bring. It matters. We are not working to make this world, this organization, this life, perfect. If that were true, we should all just give up now. It won’t happen, because Evil will always lurk in this earth.

But we do not despair. Because a day is coming when the One upon whom we stand firm is no longer unseen. The veil will be ripped away. And when we live and we love in the light of that day, how can compassion not spring forth? How can peacemaking not be on our lips? How can we stop building the beautiful simply because we will not see its completion until that day? The thought of ceasing to do good works becomes ridiculous.

Silence is the real enemy.

And so I will fight. So I will speak. And I will weep, and I will make mistakes. I will not always say the right thing, or fight the honorable way. And when I am shaken, and when the darkness presses larger than the light, I will feel my way. I will touch the solid invisible under my feet and hold fast to the promises I know are true.

I do not fight alone. I am not alone.

And I need to make sure others know that, too.

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