Struggling Through the Current of These Crooked Times

I am not feeling cheery.

Depressed? Perhaps. Sad, certainly.

Despair? Not really. With Easter on the horizon, I am a prisoner of hope and so cannot yield to the Big D.

Anger. Pride. Fear. The sides of my emotional suitcase shudder as the host of feelings bounce around.

Pick a reason; I have more than one: some recent, some long maturing.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine inflicts collateral damage on my soul and spirit, and more reasons populate my list of concerns.

Anxiety grows not only for me but for children and grandchildren. At the risk of sounding like a vintage senior, I wonder, "What will the world be like for them?" As was the case during the birth of the twentieth century, the uninterrupted progress of health, wealth and compassion cannot and should not be assumed. 

The ragged complexity of life, good and evil, cannot be covered by the wallpaper of good intentions, consumer goods, or political and marketing slogans.

Little wonder that my spiritual state resembles an Old Testament Psalm. The stanzas move quickly through the litany of lament, a call to repentance, a celebration of grace and defiant hope.

Reviewing the New York Times's excellent weekly roll of pictures, my spirit grows sad at the images of Ukrainian children and women. Faces press against the train window (if they are fortunate to make it that far) as they tearfully wave goodbye to fathers, husbands and lovers. What of the children? Or even those my age, with gimpy knees, tired backs and sore hips who abandon the treasures of a lifetime to stuff a carry-on suitcase and backpack not with mementos but only with what might assist survival. 

My spirit may be sad, but the depth of my soul cries out in lament

In my most irrational moments, I want to pace the floor like the exhausted parent of squabbling two-year-olds and shout, "Stop it!" 

Stop this devastating invasion of Ukraine.

Stop the devastation of the Amazon rain forest.

Stop the pursuit of a lifestyle that reports species on the verge of extinction like a football score.

Stop the human trafficking, the child exploitation, the twisted political and bureaucratic mess that leaves entire communities without clean water to drink.

Prolonged immersion in the traditions of Lent shapes my pleas into what they are, a call to repentance. Stop. Abandon the ideologies and idolatries and turn towards that which brings life. As much as I might find it uncomfortable to sit down in the pub beside those ancient prophets, no small part of my soul shouts Preach on!

Then, a moment later, I read the accounts of the massive outpouring of compassion prompted by the war in Ukraine. The image of the baby strollers left by Polish mothers at the train station for fleeing mothers moistens my eyes. The hundreds of cars parked in a Romanian parking lot as their owners wait to transport a disembarking family back to rooms and basements hurriedly made hospitable because "how could we not?" The massive response of the international community staggers in its speed. From almost every level of society, businesses and non-profits struggle to provide on-the-ground support for the refugees - food, medicine, clothing, and practical help in dozens of ways. The effort doubles along with the numbers. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. My prayers are of gratitude. My spirit is humbled even as it sings in celebration.

I am no military strategist, politician, diplomat or think tank analyst. Still, it does not require much effort to incorporate the Russian invasion of Ukraine into the David and Goliath narrative. How can such a small nation like Ukraine possibly endure much less survive against the world's second-largest military power?

Go down the list.

How can humanity find its way through the self-inflicted wound of climate change? How can we?

And yet.

I believe forces are at work other than those dominating the headlines. 

Addictions can be broken, lives can be redeemed, compassion can endure beyond a news cycle, justice will sprout if only like a dandelion in a cracked sidewalk and evil can be resisted.

Little wonder my spiritual state resembles an Old Testament Psalm. Join whichever stanza you like - lament, repentance, the celebration of grace or the upraised hand of defiant hope.

Photo by Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

How are you dealing with the situation in Ukraine?

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