When will our weapons have no place? When will our violence be replaced? … Oh God if you could change everything, would it be a king or a new way to breathe? Neither or both, oh God could it be something we’d never conceive? — Peace, by Jameson McGregor
I’m sitting in the Helsinki Airport, known as one of the greatest in the world for sleeping overnight in. I’ve decided to try to not sleep. It’ll be better for my body clock to stay awake and sleep as much as I can on flights tomorrow to London and then to Dallas than to do so here.
By the end of the night I am hoping to be finished with Burning Cities, an Estonian novel by Kai Aareleid. It’s about life in Tartu during the early and mid Soviet years. Among other themes, it highlights how both Estonians and Russians suffered as a result of those wielding power seeking to maintain an atmosphere of fear.
I look up from the book to my phone and see a barrage of notifications about the latest…. what would you call it? In trying to come up with a word, I’m reminded of another book, Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow. The main character speaks of war as a force that never ends. There is no “this war” or “that war.” It is simply something that finds a way to find its way to us, and we’ve yet found the courage of a Lamb to say “enough.”
I think of my friend H. from Iran. We met early last week for coffee and grieved over the conflict between our countries. We openly hoped for a better future. This was before I returned to the church where I was staying and looked at the news reports that indicated our hope will likely be delayed.
Powerful people, regardless of what flag they fly, find a way to delay hope.
I look up across the terminal and see people from all over the world, some trying to sleep and some fighting it. Yesterday in Tallinn I saw a young Russian family walking away from Old Town. The mom said something to her distracted young child and without knowing the words, I knew by the daughter’s terrified reaction that it was the universally employed empty threat to leave her behind if she didn’t pick it up.
It’s fucking crazy how alike we all are.
Yet still we have an insatiable desire to kill each other.
Like many of you here at the beginning of the year, I’ve recently read the Cain and Abel story, and yeah. It’s crazy how alike we are.
Yesterday, or was it today, I can’t remember, I told my friend Toivo that regardless of what 2020 brings, I hope it will reinvigorate my faith.
I look at my newsfeed now and see urgent pleas for prayer. Pray for our troops. Pray for America. Pray for our President. And a few Pray for Iranians and Iraqis.
And I suppose this is a good test to see whether my faith will be reinvigorated. There’s no chapel, that I can find, in the terminal, so I guess this very comfortable (by airport standards) seat in front of Gate 40 will be my sanctuary, as I pray for them all.
For the Iraqi people, devastated by decades of war.
For the brilliant Iranian student who would give anything to study in the U.S.
For Donald Trump.
For the U.S. soldier in the line of fire.
For the Palestinian people and for Jews around the world targeted for their faith.
For Iranian clerics and fundamentalist Christian pastors who believe in gods who wield swords rather than the God who transforms them into gardening tools.
For the Asian women and Russian couple, and moms in hijabs sharing this sanctuary with me right now.