Something shifted inside me when I became a dad.
I could not put my finger on it until someone offered that to be a parent is forever to have a piece of your heart running around in the world outside of yourself.
Little human beings, complete in and of the full span of themselves. The world in their tiny hands, at their tiny feet. Such innocence and vulnerability, almost too precious for this broken world to bear.
Once I could see these little pieces of me out in the world, beyond myself, any delusion that I was in control of anything much at all quickly vanished.
You do not need to be a parent to have had your heart broken by events in Ukraine in recent days, the brutal bombing of a maternity and children’s hospital, redefining our very understanding of inhumanity.
Sin, destruction and death, again. Seemingly unable to help ourselves as we fall ever east of Eden.
The desecration of Ukraine is beyond me.
Outside of my ability to apply words to the images I see, or match memories to the streets where I have walked. Almost beyond the abstractions of language or even imagination, yet as real and heavy as the tanks and bodies strewn across cold earth.
War in Europe is no longer a history lesson or a philosophical possibility. The geo-political tectonic plates are moving as fast as the humanitarian crises is growing.
Social media provides a live stream of actual events, windows into the lives of those who remain and instantaneous commentary from the new armchair experts. As we scroll, scenes of terror and moments of brave humanity are interspersed between the latest celebrity news and football scores.
How can/should/must we respond?
How do we consider the injustices we see thousands of miles away with the rising costs of living and deepening inequality we see impacting the most vulnerable here?
Where is the Lord’s hand and heart in all of this?
I cannot answer these questions. They are not neatly resolved through trite Christianese. So I tread carefully, among my ignorance and inabilities. Humbly, around those much more intimately acquainted with suffering.
I bring my questions to the Lord as I walk (stumble) and talk (stutter) with Him day by day. What else can I do? To whom else would I go? In His grace, my questions do not disappear in the dignity and urgency of this moment.
He reminds me that before I had ever conceived of war, He sent the Prince of Peace. He hates injustice and calls me to work against it. He values what seems like feeble acts of kindness in the face of evil – a shared garment, a meal, a glass of water, and whatever else we may be able to offer in prayer and practical support.
He invites me to lament and ask with the Psalmist ‘How Long O Lord?’ reminding me that His times and ways are not my own. Maybe the words of Psalm 10 are appropriate.
He reminds me that my father-heart is only a faint reflection of His; breaking for each one He created in his image. I am challenged and comforted in faith to believe that cries fall not into the blind pitiless indifference of a cold dark universe but are seen and heard by its Maker.
When my words fail, His remain sure. Words of power and beauty, truth and goodness, speaking light into being, peace to the storm and life to death.
When chaos seems to replace control, His sovereignty, rule and reign continues. He will work evil for good, reshape swords into ploughs and one day, reconcile all things to Himself.
He creates a space somewhere between heaven and earth, somehow we can hold together horror and hope, somewhere both beyond and between.
David Smyth is E A head of Northern Ireland and coordinates the Public Leader- Northern Ireland course. He is a former solicitor and represents the Evangelical Alliance on a range of government, civic and charitable forums. He serves in the space where faith, law, politics and culture intersect.
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article of those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.
David thank you for the therapy of your anointed script as you help bring the multitude of our thoughts together on to one page. I give God grateful thanks for you dear brother. May the Spirit of the Lord rest upon you in all that you are and seek to do for His glorious Kingdom.
“I bring my questions to the Lord as I walk (stumble) and talk (stutter) with Him day by day”
I am encouraged David by your presentation of our inadequacy before Father God. It continues to amaze me that I can experience the joy and freedom of being a child of God yet always remaining aware of how short I fall from the standard I would aspire to obtain. Yet through my stuttering prayers somehow I see amazing things happen as God understands and responds.