There is a very powerful moment in the first Star Wars movie, now titled Episode 4. It is the moment when the planet Alderaan is destroyed by the bad guys. We see the moment of its destruction reflected in the response by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Emotionally he is overwhelmed because he senses the terror and death of the millions on Alderaan.
This moment comes to mind because I note how different is my own response to the news of the many who die each day. Last week we read about the death of 1,000 people in the Congo, a result of inter-tribal warfare. Of course there is the daily body count from Iraq. And the painstaking reporting of those who have died from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. I read and I feel—nothing.
I am disturbed that I feel nothing. After all if I believe, and I do, that each human being is made in the image of God, the death of any human being should cause me grief because it is the death of someone of infinite worth. I suspect that I have been overwhelmed by the magnitude of the numbers. When I read of one person’s death, I am moved to grief. But 1,000 is just a number, a statistic. Perhaps I have become numbed by the pain I see daily. It is painful to feel for the pain and deaths you encounter. After awhile, some protective mechanism kicks in and we harden our hearts so that we can survive emotionally.
I suspect this is what happens when you have to kill people in a war. I suspect that soldiers have to suspend their humanity when they shoot and drop bombs. Otherwise how do you deal with the reality that you have killed another human being, maybe an innocent child?
I am no soldier but I am afraid that something is already amiss in my own soul when I no longer feel when I encounter human death. After all, if the extinguishing of a human life means nothing, than life itself means nothing. I fear this slow hardening of my own heart.
But what can I do?
A few thoughts come to mind.
I can restrict the amount of time I spend imbibing the media. If I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of news reporting I receive I can choose to control how much of the news I see. After all, the key stories are often repeated many times on the same channel and on different channels.
I can pray for the situations I am aware of. Indeed by choosing to stop and pray I will already slow down my intake of the accounts of death I read about. And in approaching the Lord in prayer, I know my heart will be softened by His love.
I can choose to help those that I can help. Instead of being paralysed by what I cannot do, I do what I can do. That includes giving to churches and mission organizations that are involved in front-line ministries. Indeed my boys and I have talked about “adopting” a child through a Christian social concern organization and helping to provide for his/her care. It’s time to do it.
I can choose to value the gift of my own life and rededicate it to the King and His Kingdom purposes.
I can choose to enhance the lives of the people that God brings into my life, blessing them and encouraging them in whatever way I can.
I can spend time with people whose hearts are still alive. I can read their writings.
I am sure there are many out there who know of more creative ways to stop one’s heart from spiritual calcification.
For this is Lent. And we remember yet once again that God did not switch off His heart in the face of human pain. Instead He embraced it. On the Cross.
No, it is not our place to carry the world’s pain. We can’t even begin to carry our own. But if the Spirit has truly given us “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26-27) how can we not feel the tragedies that we see daily?
Lord please help our hearts from growing cold.
Your brother, SooInn