A Not-So-Holy Week

It began on Palm Sunday, when 45 saints were martyred by ISIS while attending worship services at two Coptic churches in Egypt.

That same day, a 69-year-old doctor from Kentucky was forcibly removed from an airplane, for no other reason aside from the fact that the airline wanted to accommodate its own staff before a customer. He was left with a broken nose, busted lip, and concussion from this dehumanizing experience at the hands of an aviation police officer.

One of these events was committed by a sworn enemy; the other, by someone whose job is to protect us.

The next day, a 53-year-old woman and 8-year-old student lay dead in a special needs classroom at a California school. The shooter was the estranged husband of the woman.

Tuesday and Wednesday were a bit quiet, or perhaps I just didn’t pay close enough attention to the news.

When Maundy Thursday came, I was relieved to begin the journey of reflection leading up to Easter. These events—in particular the first two—had taken their toll, and I was ready to catch a glimpse of hope in a not-so-holy week.

I had just finished a lunch meeting and was headed back to my office. Already exhausted, I dropped into Starbucks in search of caffeine. As I stood in line, a breaking news alert came across my phone: US Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs.

I quickly scoured the Internet for more information, the words “largest non-nucleur bomb” and “target was ISIS caves” catching my eye. Disoriented, I stumbled out of line. This is not normal! I thought to myself. Last week we fired missiles at Syria, this week we’re dropping bombs on Afghanistan. Does this mean we’re at war? Or have we been at war this whole time without realizing it? Will they retaliate? I live 50 miles from Manhattan. Is this why I saw New Jersey National Guard was on the move today? If our President views firing missiles as something so casual as eating a delicious piece of chocolate cake, there is virtually no ceiling on the short-sighted decisions he will make—especially since his favorite Bible verse is “an eye for an eye” (which Jesus directly refuted). 

These were some of the thoughts that were running through my head. They may not all be grounded in “truth” but this was my experience at the time. And to be honest, I was scared.

But that night, I went to church. As my eyes were fixed to the cross, all of the fears and stress I had felt from this not-so-holy week began to quickly fade, which is why local churches that preach Jesus are the one consistent place I know I can find peace in a world of chaos.

People of the Cross

People of the Cross

People of the Cross: a late night reflection

I remember around this time last year, when I first learned that ISIS was beheading Christians. I was in the process of moving from Texas to Pennsylvania, and we were at a gas station outside of Knoxville when my dad returned from inside. He stood there, outside my car, and he told me that people were losing their heads because they confessed Christ. I wasn’t the same after that. I would sit up late at night, staring at the walls of my new house, and I just couldn’t make sense of it. I would read the articles and look at the pictures and cry nearly every day, but I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that this was actually happening.

Fast forward a year. There is still no peace in the Middle East, but it dominates the headlines less and less these days. I sometimes go days, even weeks, without thinking about it. And this bothers me. Because even when I can’t get my mind around, I want these things to be in my mind, and in my heart too, you know. I don’t want to ever forget these things, even when I feel totally weak and helpless and am still trying to make sense of my own life.

It’s summer now, but I remember back in February of this year, when it was so cold in Pennsylvania that the wind chill reached negative sixteen. I was working outside that week, and I got a sinus infection as a result, but I kept plowing ahead as best I could. I remember one night, when I crawled into my warm bed after a long day of work, and I couldn’t help but think of those spending the night on the streets of my city. I was sick, but at least I was safe, sheltered from the arctic air of the Great Northeast. And I thought of the group of Egyptian Coptic Christians who had recently been killed for their faith. I thought of how they died singing on that beach, and as I lay there on my bed I heard myself say aloud, “God, I want to love You like that!”

We are all people of the cross, but we certainly do not live the same day-to-day experiences.