For You in the Trenches

by Marilyn on November 16, 2015


All weekend I have thought about what to write this morning. I think about world events and how they have filled up our newsfeeds, yet I also know that you live in your own world events. You live in places where bombs go off, where corruption runs rampant, where trash builds up because of anger at governments, where babies die too soon and young women and men lose their innocence to the evil of others.

So what do I say to you who live in the trenches; you who sigh as you hear the news, because you know how awful it is, you know how broken it is. You don’t need a bomb to tell you the world is broken. You heard God’s call to a broken world, a world he loves, and you try to live out that call every single day. You have given up what Rachel Pieh Jones calls the Western illusion of safety, instead you walk in the safety of God.

You have chosen a currency beyond fear. Because when fear is our currency, we cannot live effectively. Whether this be around parenting, around work, or around where we are called to live, this is truth.When fear is our currency, we forget that safety is not about where we live, or work, or play.

Safety is about knowing where our security lies, what we’re called to do, and who we’re called to be.

What are we called to when we face a broken world?

We are called to pray. For those of us familiar with the Muslim world, we know that all of life is ordered by the call to prayer. Five times a day the call rings out across cities, towns, and villages. It echoes from minarets calling faithful Muslims to prayer. I am fully aware of the differences in belief systems and truth claims between Christianity and Islam – yet five times a day for much of my life I have been reminded to lift my heart in prayer. And those five times stretch to many times in between until I realize I am slowly learning that I can’t make it through this life without prayer; that the exhortation to ‘pray without ceasing’ is life-giving. That in the midst of senseless acts of violence, in the midst of tragedy, I am called to pray. Called to pray to a God who hears and loves, a God who is present in tragedy and accepts our “why’s”, a God who knows no national boundaries or citizenship, a God who took on our human pain and suffering when he “willingly endured the cross”.

Our God is a Global God; our God is a local God. Just as concerned about the person in my neighborhood who is hurting as he is about the tragedies in Baghdad, in Lebanon, in Paris. That’s what makes him God.

So what do you do when the hurt of the world is too much to bear? You put your head down and pray so deeply it hurts. And then you go to work doing what you know you’re called to do for the day, because you are not the Saviour, you are only the saved and that by grace alone.

So I pray for you this day – in Thailand and Djibouti; in Colombia and India; in Senegal and Singapore; in Montreal and Kansas; in Egypt and in Lebanon, and so many places in between.  Thank you for who you are and what you do. May you know mercy and grace, laughter and joy. May you see beauty in the broken, and hope in the midst of confusion.

*Author’s note: this piece is a collection of several different pieces written on Communicating Across Boundaries in the past 4 years.

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About Marilyn

An adult third culture kid, Marilyn grew up in Pakistan and then raised her own 5 third culture kids in Pakistan and Egypt. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts 15 minutes from the international terminal. She works with underserved, minority communities as a public health nurse and flies to the Middle East & Pakistan as often as possible. She is the author of Between Worlds: Essays on Culture and Belonging and you can find her blogging at Communicating Across Boundaries.
  • Jeff J. Johnston

    The article blessed me to tears as my family prepares to head to Thailand from the US. I love when you wrote

    ” God who knows no national boundaries or citizenship”
    What a simple and amazing truth.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Praying for your family as I write this. Go in peace and know that this community is here. PS – my niece and her husband just left for Thailand a month ago!

  • Amen. Praying for joy and strength in the turbulence (Hab 3)

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Love that you posted that reference. Thank you!

  • Robin Blanc

    The phrase that resonated with me was “you live in your own world events.”. I know that many people were caught up in the horror of 9/11 as I was that morning. But I had chosen to continue driving across Florida to an educational conference as planned – I would not let whomever was attacking us to ‘win’ by cancelling my plans.

    When I arrived, the conference had not been cancelled, though our keynote speaker had been stranded at an airport due to all flights being cancelled. Some people chose to go back home. I chose to focus on the sessions and learning, and watched the Disney Channel that night since it was the only station without continual updates. We then had a full day of conference sessions. It was rainy, but I stayed indoors. Then it became windy as well – and by the next day we were under a tropical storm watch. More people left, but still the conference continued.

    I had to change rooms because my oceanfront room’s windows were unstable with the increasing wind. On September 14 Tropical Storm Gabrielle made landfall.We woke up to a restaurant that was closed because the windows had all blown in. Those of us who were still present met briefly and wound up sitting in the lobby. We were told to order room service for food. I ended up watching the same Disney movies over and over. I managed to get a deck of cards from the gift shop to play solitaire. I was still stuck there on Saturday, because all the roads to the highway were closed from flooding. I finally got home Sunday afternoon – totally out of the loop of the mainstream trauma of the terrorist attack.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      I love this. What a picture of safety being a western illusion. Thanks for sharing the story.

  • Genie Fisher Marklund

    Marilyn, I just love this! Thank you so much.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Thank YOU so much for reading Genie!

  • Elizabeth Trotter

    Thank you for this, Marilyn. The burden of others’ pain that’s on my heart right now, and the things I want to speak to the American church because of that pain, seem small indeed compared to these terrorist attacks. But pain is real no matter where it comes from, and maybe we shouldn’t grade our pain on that kind of sliding scale. So, thank you for these words. Makes me think what I feel compelled to say is still important, even if it’s “insignificant” in light of recent world events. It, after all, still involves someone’s very real heartache.

    • Marilyn Gardner

      It is soooo important. Don’t for a minute think that your message is less because of the pain of the last days. In fact, it is more important than ever before. You have something to say – go say it well!

  • Kristi Lonheim

    Amen and thank you

    • Marilyn Gardner

      Thank you Kristi!

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