Sunday, January 23, 2011

playing with fire

my husband sam was lamenting today how americans don't really know what to do with a spark.

we heard this morning about some of what folks from our church learned from a visit to our sister parish in rwanda, africa last summer. one talked about community; another, joy in suffering; yet another, prayer; and another, the huge impact of small ideas. if you know sam, you'll have guessed that the community bit struck him especially strongly, hearing how our brothers and sisters in rwanda are truly living out acts 2:44-45: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need." later, he commented to our small group that he finds it frustrating that we all nod in agreement, all laud our overseas brothers and sisters for their faithfulness, all agree that this is what scripture calls us to...and then never do anything about it. monday comes, sunday a distant memory, and we're back to our usual lives. do we even think of acts 2:44-45 again? probably not.

a spark is momentary, fleeting. when a spark jumps from your fireplace onto the hearth, if it doesn't meet something to ignite immediately, it dies. i know because i was always fascinated with the fireplace as a child, watching those sparks--what happens to the ones that fly up the chimney?--and how, as long as they stayed on the tiled hearth, they were of no consequence. but if they made it to the rug, or if a flammably-clothed child was sitting close enough to be the spark's recipient, the danger of that spark becoming something was real. becoming something. just that little spark could become a fire that would consume our house or me, i knew. i liked living on the edge of the hearth, as it were. i've never minded just a little playing with fire, to be honest.

i had the joy of sitting with a boy in church this morning who experienced a spark. he's in fourth grade, i think, or maybe fifth. during the same part of the service in which sam heard what seemed to him a spark worth inflaming, this boy was listening intently. the speaker was sharing the story of a woman he met in rwanda. he explained that she has not been able to return to her home since the genocide sixteen years ago because the very same people she witnessed killing her entire family live right next door. they know that she knows who they are, and so it is not safe for her to return.

upon hearing this story, the boy next to me, who had been listening quietly to the sermon and the special reports from the rwanda team members, exclaimed, "what?!" he absolutely could not understand why she couldn't go home. "why can't she just call the police and tell them the murderers live next door?" he was incredulous. "it's not safe," i whispered quietly, trying to figure out how to address this complicated question in the middle of a church service. "it's not like here." he asked one more whispered question, i think, and i gave one more feeble answer. it's a conversation i need to remember to tell his parents about so they can follow up and explain, a conversation i'd like to take up with him again soon.

and soon is the operative word. there was a spark there for a moment when this boy realized that somewhere else far away, in a place he can't quite imagine but which maybe--just maybe--became a little more real to him today, there is unimaginable suffering and injustice. that the world he lives in, where he knows the rules and has expectations that are consistently met for how things work, is only the tiniest piece of the whole big world that God made; and that the people that inhabit his predictable little world are just a few of the many created in His image. that the injustices he suffers here weekly--be they playground taunts or scuffles with his brother--are a very small thing indeed compared to what his brothers and sisters overseas live with in their weeks.

what will happen to that spark? what will be ignited in this boy's soul as a result of his momentary incredulity at what the world beyond his world holds? will that story change his life, his heart? or has he forgotten already, gone home to a fully satisfying lunch with his living, intact family, a home that will, Lord willing, always be safe, with kind neighbors and trustworthy police on call?

whether that spark ignites a passion for rwanda or a passion for law enforcement work; a yearning for reconciliation in the world or a desire for peace with his own younger brother; a calling to care for the homeless or a motivation to help make his home a haven for his family, my prayer will be that that spark manages to overshoot the safe hearth and land on something flammable. and my hope will be that i can continue to develop a role in this boy's life and in the lives of other children like him where i can wield the bellows that will keep sparks like that alive. may i be sitting close enough to the fire to be burned myself.

1 comment:

kristalucasphotography said...

it's not on there yet, but you should listen to yesterday's sermon from here: (you can skip past the updates that he gives - this is our former pastor who moved on last summer.) i think you'll enjoy the message.