Syrian toddlers and Curious George birthday parties: a father’s prayer.

syrian boy
A few weeks ago I celebrated the 4th birthday of my little girl, Ella. It was a Curious George themed party.

As we celebrated that day, I couldn’t help but reflect on her life.

I remembered when she was born. I remembered changing her first diaper, being completely lost and deeply aware of my own inadequacies as a father. I remember her first toothless smile, and I remember holding her, tears in my eyes, as she cried for hours from un-diagnosable pain. Pain we couldn’t take away. I remember the first time she said “da” and the first time she walked.

I love the ways she smiles at me when I come home from work. I love how she asks me to cuddle “for one more minute” at bed time (Ok, ok, I love it most of the time).

In both the good times and bad, I can’t imagine life without her.

Many parents are forced to do just that.

Today I came across the story of a little Syrian boy who drowned during his attempt to flee his war-ravaged home, and who’s little body washed up on the shores of Greece. In reading this, my heart fell-apart.

My heart broke because the only reason this story isn’t about my daughter is because, by chance, I was born, and subsequently my daughter was born, in privilege and peace.

My family’s safety and luxury is not deserved any more than that boy deserved pain and death.

Yet, I have it, my daughter has it, while this sweet little boy (and 11 million others) didn’t.

This feels all the worse because, on our side of the globe, our politicians and church leaders seem more concerned with getting rid of illegal immigrants, exporting Muslims, denying marriage licenses, and protecting gun rights than they are in speaking for the poor and marginalized (though, I must stress that this is not a universal statement- there are many who dedicate their lives to this work).

Our churches seem more concerned with shaming Target for removing gender specific signage, than we are in calling out Wal-Mart for their numerous and various human rights violations (domestically and internationally).

We’re more concerned with protecting our God-given-rights to own guns than we are in calling people to peace, forgiveness and radical reconciliation.

We claim protecting the sanctity of marriage is the most pressing issue of our day, while today, there are more slaves (an estimated 29.8 million) than ever before, and more than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.

The hypocrisy is startling.

As a pastor, I get countless letters inviting me to attend conferences dealing with the emerging, church-apathetic, generations. Conferences wrestling what it looks like to woo a generation back into the church.

As I scroll through social media today, though, I am left wondering if these generations are fleeing our churches, not because of our theology (as so many leaders are quick to claim), but because they see the deep-rooted hypocrisy in our compassion.

How quick we are to love those who look, talk and act like us, while allowing the rest to wash up on countless, nameless shores (this statement directed squarely at myself).

And so today, all I can do is to offer this prayer:

Father, forgive us- forgive me- for making the Gospel ethnocentric.

Forgive us for making the gospel political.

Forgive us for choosing vengeance over forgiveness.

Forgive us for giving into fear.

Forgive us for ignoring the cries of the oppressed in order that we might dine with the privileged.

Father, help us to listen better, to act more courageously, to speak prophetically, and love unconditionally.

Help us to be brave, because our children need us.

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