in the ever-growing darkness of this world, which causes us fear, let us reflect upon the light and hope in this song from Jamie Smith with Ryan Smith.
Several years ago when I am away on retreat at L’Arche just outside of Toronto in Richmond Hill, I have the blessing of reading books in the Henri Nouwen library. I remember reading the thoughts of Father Henri Nouwen on what would be the greatest threat in the 21 st century. He writes that it will be terrorism. Think of that word for a moment. Terrorists use this word a lot to put your spirit in a state of constant fear. They use horrible videos portraying beheadings that I am strongly advising you not to watch to make you live your life in fear and an underlying despair about the state of our world. Don’t allow them to use their viciousness and cruelty to rob you of your joy.
If Father Nouwen was alive today, he would be encouraging all of us to not let the terrorists have the victory over us. He would be reminding us that we are the blessed children of God. He would call us to feel that identity in our hearts and pursue the life purpose God put upon our hearts with much prayer, reflection and dedication to it.
Everyone has a reason for being here, a purpose unique to that person. The most powerful thing you can do to defeat terrorism is to follow your vocation or calling, however you want to refer to it, with an unswerving commitment.
Terrorists want you living your life with this constant fear and feeling that one day they will get you when you least expect it. Why bother working on achieving goals if you will be killed any way? This was the thinking that occurred in my high school after we saw the film The Day After. The movie had pro-nuclear people upset that the film was alarmist propaganda, Anti-nuclear activists said the film wasn’t graphic enough. President Reagan said it was instrumental in changing his opinion about the arm’s race.1
Quoting from Wikipedia:
“The film postulates a fictional war between NATO forces and the Warsaw Pact that rapidly escalates into a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, the action itself focuses on the residents of Lawrence, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, as well as several family farms situated next to nuclear missile silos.” 2
After watching the film many of my classmates became depressed. The movie only served to fuel the feeling that it was futile to study for a future because there may be none. Yet, here we are over thirty years later and there still is a world, albeit it one living with the constant threat of terrorism.
Fear can cause us to not complete our life goals. There is often this fear of failure, which in many instances is rooted in abuse. I was afraid to fail anything because that would result in my schizophrenic father beating me physically and then emotionally with his words. He would say, “Your brother is smarter than you’ll ever be. Do you work at being stupid? You will always be a failure.”
In my case this fear of failure spurred me on to prove my father wrong. I work as a counsellor full-time in correctional ministry, take a full-time course load at then Ontario Bible College in Toronto(now Tyndale University) and am involved in many outreach ministries. I fail to understand that my drivenness although called to serve in ministry which I enjoy, has a root of proving to my father that I am not the failure he says I am.
I experience several years of burnout and times of long periods of illness because I push myself beyond what I should have. Yet, I still do not feel that I am a blessed child of God. When we fail to see how much God loves us we don’t feel loved, nor do we see the true beautiful person God created. We only hear the ugliness of what those who abuse us tell us we are. An abused person who is engaged in this unhealthy competition with their siblings as I was with my brother begins to believe the false self their abuser wants them to believe.
It is only as I have been on the journey to forgiving my father for my abuse, that I began to see that forgiving others is part of being the blessed children of God. We don’t want to contain the blessing of feeling loved to ourselves. We feel the calling in our hearts to share it. In making that long and difficult journey to forgiving my father this is when healing memories come back to me such as my father showing around an article entitled Searching for a Bit in a Megabyte, which is published in The War Cry, a Salvation Army magazine.
I am serving as a missionary in South Korea in the eastern seaboard city of Kangung He shows the article to everyone he meets. Dad gets it published in the Canadian Mental Health Association magazine. He writes to me in a letter saying, “Kevin, I am so proud of you! I wanted you to know I am telling everyone how proud I am of you. I say to them, “My son, Kevin, wrote this article!” Kevin, please forgive me for all the harm I have caused you.” My father reminded me of the truth of who I really am, not the lies that he would speak into my mind and soul when he was in a manic rage.
Just before my father’s death from pneumonia about a month before Christmas 2005 the Lord gives me the opportunity to say my final good-bye to him. I hold his hand as he is fighting for his breath. I tell him with tears flowing how much I love him. I sing songs to him about God’s love for him.
I remember his wonderful sense of humour. One time I see him in the nursing home he says when I have a beard, “Son, your razor must be broken.” The Lord that day gave me the gift of seeing my father as my Lord created him to be, not the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character I am terrified of. Dad is in Heaven where he is singing eternal praises as a blessed child of God. I love you, Dad.
I have been thinking and praying about the actions of ISIL (ISIS) and all terrorists. What they are trying to do to you is give you a false self filled with fear for the future, like my father in his sickness would try to do. You defeat terrorists and the fear they want you to live in by feeling your blessedness as a child of God not merely with your mind, but moreover your heart.
You defeat the destruction fear seeks to cause you in your spirit by owning in your heart that you are a blessed child of God and living it.
Father Henri Nouwen wrote:
“We want to live as people chosen, blessed, and broken, and thus become food for the world.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith
Father, help us defeat fear and terrorism by knowing, feeling and then acting as the blessed, broken children of God we are. Amen.
Look up into the darkness around you and see the light of our Father’s glory as you rejoice in being His blessed child.