Tumbling in the Sand
“The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.” – Zephaniah 1:14
It is hard to hear these texts from where I sit. In my comfortable office, surrounded by a safe community, never having really experienced the horrors of war or of violent destruction. From here, these words of promise, of judgement, seem like a threat. A threat to my comfort.
The thing is, I’m not unaware of the violence of this world or the destruction of so many. I have wept to see the images of those tortured and burned in the HaShoah (Holocaust) and the bodies and bones of those killed in the Rwandan genocide. I’ve felt my stomach turn to see videos and images of the children who starve to death walking for help after their families were destroyed/disappeared/hacked to death in front of them in Sudan and around the world. I’ve been physically ill to hear stories of neighbors killing each other in cold blood in Bosnia. And more recently, the stories of gay people being beaten to death by gangs driven by sheer hate leaves me silent with pain; or the stories of young kids in this country taunted about their sexuality finding it easier to end their lives than to continue … Or there are the women and children sold in sexual slavery around this world—including in this state (Connecticut)—who are treated as less than property. And I could go on and on with Colombia and El Salvador and South Africa and Cambodia and the Holy Land and, and …
It is these saints who cry out for the day of the Lord. It is their blood, their tears, their pain and suffering that demand justice. It is they that I imagine as I read these texts of the day of the Lord. Because to them—and to all of those who have been crushed by the evil, violence, and injustice of this world—these words are a promised hope of justice, of healing, of change. The agony of the birth of a new world seems so right for all of the agony that the old one has caused. The hope of the child of new creation where all that is wrong with this world will be repaired, healed, reconciled—that hope and promise is so much greater than any pain that causes the warrior to cry aloud or pain that I may experience giving up my comfort.
And so I pray that I will never hear these words from Zephaniah and all the prophets without this cloud of witnesses around me. And I pray that I will forever work to soften the pain and strive to end the injustice that this world causes to so many … who knows, maybe that work and prayer may ease the birth pangs of the day of the Lord.
Photo by James Nachtwey for TIME. Read the photo-journalist’s reflections on the Rwandan genocide, “When the World Turned its Back.”