Like many of you, I’ve been watching the updates coming in from Ukraine. And like many of you, my heart has broken, seeing the conflict develop, people fleeing, the sights of bombs going off and images of families being separated.
This is horrible. It’s terrible. On so many different levels, it’s just so very wrong.
And like many or you, I have felt frustrated because beyond prayer, there doesn’t feel like there is anything that we can do about this yet. Yes, the time will come when we can raise funds, care for refugees and do the work of the church. But not yet. Today, it feels like all we can do is watch it all unravel, and pray.
But there is something else. Something important. Something that is within our scope.
We can care for our young people during a time of anxiety and nervousness.
Our youngest son, Sam, texted us a few hours after Russia invaded Ukraine and said “does this mean I’m going to get drafted?” Sam is a college freshman.
What does a parent say to this? “I hope not.” “I don’t think so.” What are the words of reassurance we can give in a world that seemed uncertain even before Russia invaded? And while I’m confident that Sam asked the question mostly tongue-in-cheek, the question has to come from a place of anxiety and uncertainty that all of our young people are probably experiencing right now.
Kate Swanson is a counselor and therapist who is a friend and a member of my congregation. Yesterday she posted something to her Facebook page that I found to be very helpful. She gave me permission to share it with you:
“Tonight our kids asked us what was going on with Russia and Ukraine, so we explained things to them as honestly and age-appropriately as possible. The conversation ended with all four of us in tears.
I’m frequently torn between sheltering our kids from all the messiness of our world and exposing them to it. I don’t know if I’m doing it right. This week the heaviness hit me extra hard as I read disheartening and overwhelming headlines, sat with patients carrying heavy burdens, and tried to comfort family dealing with unexpected heartbreak and loss.
I’m exhausted tonight. So, we are watching Encanto, snuggling, and feeling comforted and seen by Lin Manuel’s magical songs.
There is so much we can’t control right now. It’s too much, too often. Love your people. Feel your feelings. Watch Encanto. Take care of yourselves. Rest. Repeat.”
Kate is wise.
She reminds me that we are all surrounded by little ones, youth and young adults who have never experienced a global conflict like this before; have never seen these kind of images coming across their screens; have never felt the burden of fear for their safety and worry for the safety of others like this.
As people of faith, first we turn to God and pray. This is the God who reminds us that though we walk through the places of shadow, God is with us. This is a promise. Today we cling to this promise.
And as people of faith, called to be Christian public leaders, we look around, and we see those around us, and we pay attention to how these events affect them. And we sit with them in the midst of it. And we listen. And occasionally we talk. But mostly we sit…and we listen.
Look around. Pay attention.
These children, youth and young adults who we are called to serve…who we love with the love of Jesus… they have feelings. We help them name these feelings, and we remind them of the promises of God. And we pray. There is much we cannot control. We all know this. But we can be together.
And maybe today, before we know what to do next, simply being together will be enough.
Peace, friends. Your work is more important than ever. God is with you.