day 17: terrorized | a spirit of defiance

Tuesday, 3/22/2016

Today is the first day that I have ever felt utter fear on the subway.

I’m already annoyed because I’m on the train on my way to a CityMD (aka purgatory) to get an X-ray of my wrist that I’m confident I fractured a few months ago, refused to go to the doctor for, and now hurts like a b. I get a seat (score!) and look at the guy across from me. He seems nice enough. There’s a young kid listening to absurdly loud rap music to my right and a girl taking selfies to my left. Normal enough. And then I notice a guy in a huge jacket looking at the map. It’s not that cold in New York tonight - maybe 50ish degrees - and he’s bundled up and has gloves on. I can’t stop staring at him and all of a sudden, fear grips my entire body. 

This morning the world woke up to news of the terrorist attacks in Belgium. 

At first, my mum mentioned it to me over the phone and I answered with an apathetic, “yeah that’s sad.” I looked on Facebook, and there was some mention of it here and there, but nothing like the magnitude of posts when Paris was attacked. Celebrities were posting the standard flag heart photo with the hashtags #PrayForBrussels #PrayForBelgium #PrayForTheWorld. But most of the people I actually know were mainly still focused on the state of our country’s election (Jesus, help us.) 

Have we become so accustomed to this level of evil that we no longer give it a second glance? Are we so self-centered as a country that when atrocities are happening all over the world, our main concern continues to be who is still enough of a democrat or enough of a republican to suit our fancy? Am I so focused on my own '52 day journey' that I respond to news of this magnitude with a, “that’s sad,” all because it didn’t happen down the street from me?

I logged onto twitter a few hours later and saw news that the hashtag #OpenHouse was trending. The people of Brussels were opening their homes to those stranded. I saw footage taken after the underground explosion and was struck by the eery almost silence - the sound of rubble falling, a baby crying, and people telling each other, “it’s going to be ok.” Before I knew what was happening, I was crying and couldn’t stop. How much longer will the world operate on this level of evil? The tough answer to that question is that, as a Christian, I don’t believe we will ever see the world operate on any other level until Jesus comes back. 

But that three letter statement - as a Christian - stops me in my tracks. I know what it is to believe something to the core of my being and to hold those beliefs in such high regard, that I give up things for them. Good things, fun things. Things that I don’t want to give up, but I do, because I believe God calls me to. 

I was eight years old when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot up Columbine High School. The next year, I was given the book, “She Said Yes.” It was reported that in the moment before Eric Harris shot fellow student, Cassie Bernall, he asked her if she believed in God. When she said, “yes,” he pulled the trigger. I remember reading that book as a nine year old and feeling intensely sure, and ashamed, that I wouldn’t have the bravery to say yes. I knew that the Bible says that if we deny our Father on earth, He will deny us in heaven (Matt 10:33.) I didn’t want to be denied in heaven, but I knew I would be too afraid to leave earth. 

Last year, when Paris was attacked, something shifted. I left my house that morning and realized that if I had a gun pointed to my head, and someone asked me if I loved Jesus, that I’d say yes.  I understand what it is to hold convictions so dear that you’d die for them. But I don’t understand holding convictions so dear that you’d kill, torture, or maim others. I can’t understand that. I won’t understand it. 

So here I am, sitting on the subway, and all of a sudden, this intense fear overtakes me. Not a stingray/cat fear (see Day 10) - a real, paralyzing fear. It becomes incredibly real to me that I could be on a subway car with a suicide bomber. Would it be a long, slow, and painful death? I start looking around at my fellow passengers, just waiting for the car to explode. 

And then it hits me. This is what terrorists want. Hello, it’s in their name. Terror. They want us to be afraid, to doubt the goodness, the common decency, and respect in others. They want to convince us that its only a matter of time before they succeed in terrorizing our city, our country, our people. They want to take away the joy of freedom. What is that? People thinking that our joy or our freedom is theirs to take away. Why is that? I’ve thought about it a lot on this journey. Did my attackers intend to take away my joy? Did they intend to take away my freedom? Did they know that what was a mere few hours in their world, would impact me forever? Did they even think about it that intently? Probably not. It is statistically likely that I am just another girl whose name they didn’t know in a long line of unconscious girls whose names' they didn’t know. In other words, I was nameless, faceless, and worthless. And in the weeks and months following, I believed that “logical conclusion.” 

But I’ve come to realize that I can’t believe in logical conclusions when I believe in a miraculous God. 

Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant, or insecure, remember to whom you belong. - Eph 2:19-22

Listen, I know- in the darkness, it’s a fight to believe the truth. So fight, friend. I promise you it’s worth it. Fight to defy the lies. Don’t walk, RUN to the truth.

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I am nameless: No. “But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” - Isaiah 43:1

I am faceless: No. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart.” - Jeremiah 1:5

I am worthless: No. “Her value is more precious than jewels and her worth is far above rubies and pearls.” - Proverbs 31:10

At some point, I became angry at the lies and angry at the liar (John 8:44.) And when you get mad enough, It’s pretty amazing what you can do in a spirit of defiance. Any parent of a teenager (shout out to my parents when they think back to parenting teenage me - #sorrymumanddad) can tell you that. 

Fear is the thief of joy. Joy is freedom. Let’s be doggedly defiant in our resolution to not let fear rule.