I live in a one hundred and ten year old house. It sits on a mixed foundation of granite and brick. There is a basement, but only under the kitchen. I venture down there occasionally to re-set the circuit board when I forget I can’t blow dry my hair, make toast and run the dryer at the same time. The remaining foundation is a spider-infested crawl space that I hope I will never have to go into. My husband has mine-shafted into it by shimmying his man body through an opening in the floor of the bathroom closet that is hardly big enough for a ten year old.
I love him so selfishly in that moment because I do not have to do it.
I would let the house flood.
I would never add insulation or a water vapor of any kind.
I would not put up a support beam, instead let the crack in the dining room wall inch its way toward the ceiling.
I hate tight places.
To be trapped, pressed, and crushed in the dark completely alone is one of my worst nightmares. The only way I could endure is if I knew someone was coming for me.
But, I live in a small village in a smallish state in North America and no one is raining barrel bombs from airplanes on my little New Englander that sits near a railroad crossing and where one would probably say that the side yard is where it’s the prettiest. The only invasion comes from the occasional chipmunk and some sugar ants when the weather is hot and dry.
I don’t have to worry.
Or think about what’s happening far away from me and my spider-infested crawlspace.
Then, last week in the car, I turned on the radio.
The reporter was simply, mundanely, reporting the death of a man who regularly went into blown apart buildings to rescue people suddenly hammered into the ground with their tables and couches and teapots and lamps and bedframes and bureau drawers and the morning’s breakfast crushing them into the most devasting bone-breaking dirt-eating alone-ness.
Every day, sometimes all day, ancient brick and mortar homes much older than mine are torn apart by barrel bombs raining from the sky that leave stone upon bone. People who refuse to leave their beloved city whimper and wail from crawlspaces too small to crawl from.
The day of the radio broadcast, I waited out the red light on Minot Avenue and learned that someone actually takes the time to fill a barrel with nails and splintered wood and shards of glass and metal and all things wire designed to puncture and shred.
As I made the left turn onto Court Street I found out that a “double tap” is when, after a pilot drops the first barrel, he circles in the sky to see where it lands and waits for a crowd to gather around the smoke and rubble. He watches as rescuers run toward those needing help and then he drops the second barrel.
I felt my jaw tighten. It happens when I’m trying not to cry.
I leaned over the steering wheel at the top of Goff Hill that overlooks Lewiston, my closest city, and that’s when I discovered the terrible reality that in some parts of the world killing is not enough.
A person’s home must be so completely destroyed it can never be re-built.
A person’s body must be so ripped apart it can never be healed.
A person’s soul must be so utterly condemned it could never be forgiven.
There is an enemy bent on destruction right down to the very ashes of brick and bone.
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy…
So…this man who died.
Turns out he’s famous, but I wasn’t paying attention two years ago to know that after yet another bomb blast, Khaled Omar lay down his weary body on a pile of rocks to rest after digging for hours looking for children thought to be trapped under the ruins of their home. While he lay there, he heard a baby cry.
Khaled went toward the sound and began digging again and sixteen hours later from the moment the rescue operation began, he reached into a hole and felt the swaddling clothes of a ten day old baby and he pulled.
…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I made the left onto Turner Street and the broadcast replayed the audio of this rescue from 2014 and I could hear the sound of men, their crazy excitment, their crazy anticipation, and their crazy hope manifested in the timbre of their voices all coming together in a symphony of chaotic joy.
I was a mess at the roundabout near Starbucks.
I barely made out the rest of the story about this Khaled Omar and others like him called the White Helmets. A group of volunteers in white hard hats that, while everyone else is running away from the bombings, they run toward it.
The reporter ended the broadcast by saying when the people of this besieged city were asked why they stay in light of all the danger, especially being trapped under a bombed out building, they responded by saying, “This is our home and we know if something happens, someone will come for us.“
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I couldn’t get out of the car. I had pulled into the plaza to make a Goodwill drop off and I was undone.
This time, not because of the terrible things I’d just heard.
This time, in a parking lot, I was undone by Hope.
Someone will come for us…
When all hell is breaking loose from a barrel or an addiction or a terrible diagnosis and everything normal isn’t anymore, sometimes the only way we can endure is knowing that someone will come for us. That they will run toward us in our entrapments, our addictions, our shame.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
While we are a long way off…
Seems like the whole wide world is a long way off.
Tilting into violence in everyday places.
Toppling into addiction.
Teetering into identity confusion.
Khaled Omar was killed rescuing others.
This is what the enemy does.
He thinks if he can kill the rescuer, he has won.
He thought Calvary was his greatest triumph, but the tables were turned again and that victory belonged to someone else.
For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
Jesus ran toward humanity that day.
He reached into our entrapments and pulled us toward Him and it cost Him everything.
Therefore, we can endure anything.
We know someone has come for us.