If peace were a place, it would be near the ocean.
Ocean waves roll in, tides change. I sit under navy umbrella, toes buried deep in the sand. Another wave creeps closer to my beach chair, my half-read book, my utopian afternoon. The constant breeze, the lull of soft water, the giggles of children splashing in the surf. The smells of salt and coconut oil and water intoxicate us. We who line the shore like a bright rainbow share this long spit of sand, and together we drink in the moment. Breathe in another memory, peaceful and unbroken.
But peace doesn’t live everywhere.
Thousands of miles away, Syria punctuates its people’s life with bodies filling long trenches, babes crying out for dead mothers, daughters with missing fathers, sons burying younger siblings baptized in tears and blood. Bags and blankets cover those once living, breathing in life. Now, they lie down in death’s violent peaceful slumber. Arabic words fly untranslated by international reporters. There’s no need. Sorrow transcends our cacophony of words. I watch the small television screen as buildings crumble from another blast like some spoiled child kicking over another’s sand castle.
Screams and sirens blare as if they want to grab the attention of the world. To jerk our head over to see beyond diplomatic rhetoric hurled from all sides, to see the man and girl laid upon the UN truck begging the world’s eyes to open. There amid the wreck, sorrow still speaks in her universal tongue. Look here, see us. The hurting, the helpless, the lonely, the scared.
Again, the earth jerks and rumbles and creeks swallowing up villages whole. The eerie sounds of Italian ambulances careen past cameras and more reporters hoping that the mangled roadways will still hold while the earth trembles beneath. Searching for life and counting the dead,holding out hope for the missing. Voices silenced too soon. Another tremor, another building falls, another scream, another panic attack.
The camera pans out away from the faces to empty streets. Centuries of church building laid waste in a moment. Bare bones of worship stand like lonely cloisters amidst the wreckage. Blue tents lined up, little shelter to the toppling granite, edifices meant to last forever. Now gone. There amid the wreck, sorrow still speaks in her universal tongue. Look here, see us. The hurting, the helpless, the lonely, the scared.
It seems like another world so far from my beach and waves and peace, but it is there. Ugly and tragic as the ocean is beautiful.
But I sit in my beach chair unaffected by tragedies beyond the Atlantic. My worst fears are jelly fish and rip currents, not bombs or quakes or angry militias. I don’t know how to piece together what I feel or what to say or how to fit all of this violence under the auspices of a loving God. A God of Peace when there is no peace. Not yet. Words jumble together and sound trite and so Western compared to those slinging the dead into mass graves, those searching for the dead amidst earthquake rubble. But I pray for peace, for comfort, for those of us with Western eyes to see.
Today, I’m linking up Joy in this Journey and Life Unmasked. Come join us in writing naked.