Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men (or something like that)
Here’s my confession: I’ve been angry. There it is and Merry Christmas. Honestly, I wanted to write a nice little “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men” post from the Middle East. But, it’s just not happening, it wouldn’t be authentic. Maybe it’s just being in the Middle East because everyone is angry or maybe it’s my personality type (you do realize I’m an 8 on the Enneagram) or maybe I don’t have an excuse. I’m just plain angry.
I’m angry about peace
I’m angry every time I think about the border.
I’m angry when Arab men treat me like a two-bit prostitute. I would be high-end people, high-end. I kid. Super angry with how Arab men catcall me, daily.
I’m angry every time I get ripped off in a taxi.
I’m angry when I get on Facebook and read how people in my country view the people I am serving in the Middle East.
I’m angry when I hear that churches don’t want to get involved with Palestinians or the conflict because they don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I heard that three times in the past month in different situations.
I’m angry every time I see another church prioritize a Sunday morning service and a church building over serving the poor.
I’m angry every time I speak Arabic and stumble for words.
I’m angry that everyone can get into Israel but me.
I’m angry every time I turn on the news and see Israelis and Palestinians killing each other.
I’m angry every time I walk into a Palestinian Refugee camp and see the injustice of their situation. (Combine that with the Facebook thingie from above and my head wants to explode.)
I’m angry about peace.
And maybe angry isn’t the right word. Actually it is. I’m very angry about peace or the lack of it. Maybe I’m angry at the cost of peace. I recently read, reread and then read it again, Jean Vanier’s Finding Peace. It’s 80 pages of to-the-point-truth. Short and sweet, just how I like it. I have been chewing on passages from the book, especially this one:
“The journey of peacemaking is not easy. It may be easy to be a lover of peace, but it is more difficult to be a worker for peace, a maker of peace, day in and day out. When difficulties and conflict arise, we can easily be discouraged. Sometimes our efforts appear so futile. We so often touch the violence within our own selves. We can fall into doubt and even confusion. To struggle for peace is to be passionate for development, so that each and every person may fulfill not only their basic needs but also the needs that allow them to blossom and become fully human. I believe it is this prophetic, silent service to those of other cultures and religions, or to those who are broken and in pain, that is needed now in our world.”
So, I guess I’m really angry with myself. Isn’t it true that it’s much easier to say you want peace or love peace than to actually work for peace? #peaceinthemiddleeast #peaceforpalestine #freepalestine Can’t I just hashtag that bad boy up and let it at that? The reality of working for peace or being a maker of peace is costly and it’s a struggle. There is nothing superficial about it. I can be angry all I want and some of it is justified, some of it is righteous. But, where all this gets tricky is when my dysfunction gets mingled into the justified part. So, the list above has some righteous anger but it is also mixed with my own judgment, my own fear, my own hurt, and my own dysfunction.
The anger comes when I have to look at my own heart, my own motives, and my own hatred. I wrote a blog earlier in the year of how it Starts with Me. Because when that violence is touched within myself, I would rather go into denial or self-righteousness instead of admitting that I too am fully capable of committing the most heinous acts against those I feel deserve it. But remember, I’m an 8 on the Enneagram. Saddam Hussein and I are the same type. I do believe he was on the unhealthy side of the spectrum, though. And then I have to acknowledge the lack of value I have for another human being or even worse, my refusal to see their humanity. I build a wall to keep them out, which keeps myself safe. Honestly, for most of my life, that has been my priority. Building walls, barricading myself, and my refusal to be with others (who really are other) are ways I dehumanize people. It keeps me out of the mess of life, out of other’s pain. Part of the cost is to step out of my self-created safety to join others in very uncomfortable situations.
If I want to be a peacemaker and be able to offer that to others, I must deal with my own darkness. Not just my hatred, but my need to succeed and be liked and my own despair. My identity must be so rooted in Love and I must be so present and aware of myself and others. It’s a constant struggle. I can’t stay complacent in my own junk. As uncomfortable as that is and as much of a cost as it seems it really is a benefit. My own healing and wholeness can come from moving through my darkness to have the tools to offer that to others.
Here’s the thing, I think we are all called to be peacemakers. It’s in all of us, wired into our DNA. In the spheres we operate in, however small or however big (like the kind that seem overwhelmingly huge and unsolvable, like Israel/Palestine conflict, for instance.), we have the opportunity day in and day out to offer reconciliation. Do we choose to do so? For the past several months I have been asking myself hard questions, okay, brutal ones. If I call myself a follower of Jesus--a Christian--can I be one without actively pursuing peace for the world around me? Without freely offering myself, crossing barriers to reach out to those I don’t understand or who are very different from myself? As a Christian, do I get to stay in my own tribe without acknowledging other’s injustice or pain? Do I get to be safe?
The only answer I get is a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross. Vulnerable, alone, offering his life so others may have life. Period.
I write this to you the week of Thanksgiving. I am truly homesick. I miss my friends and I miss this time of the year in MY culture. I am deeply lonely and struggling to be fully present here in the Middle East because I’m pining away for my life in America. At the same time, something as simple as walking through my neighborhood at dusk with the call to prayer floating through the air made me grateful. As lonely and homesick and tired as I am, I am deeply grateful to be among people in the Middle East. There is the tension. It’s probably where my pain is coming from disguised as anger. I see God’s extravagant love for them and can’t help but fall in love with them too. And wanting so much for them while I’m desperate for all that is familiar. The reconciliation starts in me, while holding this tension moving forward and being present to people in front of me. That enables me to cross the barriers and call people out of their own shadows. Peace—in its simplest form.
“When we love and respect people, revealing to them their value, they can begin to come out from behind the walls that protect them.” *
I remind myself that not too far from where I am, Jesus was born. Emmanuel—God among us. He was born into the simplest, messiest, and most unstable of places. Quietly and painfully, Peace entered the world in the form of a baby.
This is the example. This is the hope. This is Peace.
* Jean Vanier, Finding Peace