This morning at 5:53am as I went rolling down the highway with Jason and Gleny in the backseat on our way to drop them off at school, I whispered a prayer as I looked out over the misty pineapple fields that spawned out to our right under the gaze of the mountain range beyond: Lord, I know Your Word says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, and even though that doesn’t always make sense to me and right now in my flesh I don’t want to do that, I will trust You and obey, so I pray now for them. Although I don’t know exactly what to pray or what should happen, You do, so I pray that You would see them and be with them. Amen.
Yesterday was my 25th birthday, and while we had planned to spend the entire day celebrating with our faith community about an hour away from our home, my husband Darwin ended up spending just about the entire day in La Ceiba’s police station. That morning we had received a series of phone calls while in our discipleship group informing us that several local youth had broken into our home that morning while it was left unattended, and that numerous key members of our little town had collaborated to respond to the incident.
This was the second robbery in a span of two weeks, and the ump-teenth robbery in two years. But rather than it being a mysterious disappearance of our chickens in the night or finding our fence with a cut-out hole the next morning or wondering who broke the pad-lock off the storage unit to steal the electric generator or where the big sack of rice had gone, this time we caught the thieves in action. After experiencing a clone of the same robbery two Sundays ago, we hired a dear friend of ours to hide out at our home (think some strange breed of guerrilla-warfare) this Sunday while we would be gone, making himself invisible to see who the thieves are. He did just that, and, sure enough, the thieves came, called out to see if anyone was home, and, when no one answered, they hopped the fence and broke into the kitchen, starting to fill several big sacks full of food while two companions kept the look-out on the other side of the fence.
It was then that our friend called the police, who, of course, tragically delayed in their response and arrived on the scene way after-the-fact only after the vice-mayor of the town was called and got involved. But, thankfully, our watchman friend immediately called another neighbor of ours who showed up via the back of our property with his own weapons and, to not go into all the details, trapped the thieves red-handed with the help of two adult men.
Two of the teenage boys who were trapped and sent to the police station (a rare event here – most people are afraid to report robberies because the police fail to take action and then the thieves harm or kill those who reported them) are members of Darwin’s choir and work closely with us in agriculture each week, and the other two are not known personally. After investigation, they all confessed that the other two members of their ‘gang’ who broke in two Sundays ago are Brayan and Little Darwin. Yes, Brayan whom we have loved as a son and Little Darwin who has participated in homeschool, music and agriculture.
So yesterday as I sat on the cool concrete floor in our mentors’ home during discipleship group surrounded by our seven children and numerous brothers and sisters in the faith, Darwin doing the police processing in La Ceiba, I struggled mightily with rage in my heart toward those who only want to kill, steal and destroy, those who can’t just leave us alone to etch out the little living that God has called us to. We have enough problems with our seven kids’ behavior and generational struggles, demanding work from sun-up to sun-down, doing the difficult task of shepherding those who don’t always want to be shepherded, and having to put up with power and water outages all the time without having to deal with all this additional chaos that only distracts, stresses and exhausts.
God’s Word is never far from my thoughts, and as though forming a protective cloud or shield around my anger, God placed His commandment to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us on all sides of my violent mental wanderings. As my thoughts shot off in one direction or another and as I fantasized about how I wished I would have caught them and taken a baseball bat to them or worse, my thoughts could never go too far because, like a ping-pong ball trapped within walls, I always hit up against God’s perfect Word and could go no further. But bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, my anger boiled and ping-ponged around inside of me, always finding God’s command and turning back.
So my question is not Is God just? or Where is God in the midst of so much suffering and chaos? or Why is this happening to us? But rather, trusting all the answers that we already have available to us in Scripture, my prayer – sometimes through tears and sometimes through rage or disappointment, stress or total exhaustion – is for perseverance.
It is not enough to believe God is just in a moment of serene prayer or upon reading a passage from Scripture or after having been encouraged by a dear friend. We must believe He is just every hour of every day until we take our last breath – during seasons of peace and seasons of war, in the midst of betrayals, after great loss and when we find ourselves beaten down by the evil of this world (both within us and without).
It is not enough to read Jesus’ words that call us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us and think among roses that we have none – we must live those words when the times comes when we do, in fact, find evil breathing down our necks.
It is not enough to say that God is good when we have a stable job and a roof over our head and our family members are alive and we’ve eaten today. To believe that God is good is to say it through tears, in despair and confusion, without all the answers and in times of trial in addition to in times of happiness and ease – to know that He is good not because our lives are currently good or the weather is favorable or we got what we wanted but because He never changes and deserves our praise.
So we pray for our dear friend who played ‘watchman’ yesterday, for his protection after he took a rather daring step that almost no one here takes. Last night as our kids lie asleep and Darwin and I sat on a small rug in our bathroom, discussing the events of the day, he told me that our friend asked for Darwin and I to take care of his wife and kids should those same confused thieves or their friends decide to take his life for reporting them. The young robbers are loose once again after the police gave them a slap on the wrist, and we wait for their next strike in this twisted game of cat and mouse, light and darkness.
Oh, and I just received an alarming phone call from our 8-year-old son Jason’s teacher saying that his behavior today has been atrocious, that he is refusing to do his work and is telling his classmates he is going to kill them and cut off their heads. So in the here and now, I can’t really place where it is that light is streaming in on this battlefield of eternal proportions, this fight for justice in a lawless land.
But I can tell you one thing – that whether by the results we can see it seems futile to work for the Good because the forces of darkness win battle after battle in the here and now, the flickering light of Christ waits patiently: God is good, and He is just, and He calls us to persevere until the end, because His perfect, liberating justice will be served in this lawless land.