I swing the door open, breathing in crisp autumn air as our gentle giant Max meanders into the front yard. His floppy ears, animated expressions, and puppy-like paws remind me of a stuffed animal.
Golden light filters through the sun-drenched canopy of leaves. I look up and feel the beams of hope on my face. Decades-old oaks and maples sway in the breeze, shaking off the last vestiges of a verdant summer, dotting the air with leaves falling like feathers from an old down pillow.
Mighty maples flank our 115-year-old home. Their leaves boast rich oranges and robust golds. Squirrels with fat cheeks full of acorns chase each other up and down the trunks, teasing my dog as he sniffs the fallen leaves.
I look at the peeling paint on our front door, the same one that has whispered welcome home to generations of families who have stepped across the threshold. Just beyond the door, backpacks and sneakers fill the entryway as beeps and buzzes from my kids’ video games fill the air.
I exhale alongside a gust of not-yet winter wind. Max sits at attention, waiting for me as I survey the scene brick by brick.
I don’t know how to reconcile this peace in front of me with the photos I saw earlier in the day. Pictures of homes that used to hold families like mine had turned to rubble, leaving mounds of mortar where grandmothers cooked meals and fathers read stories.
Between work deadlines and school carpools, I had read just enough global news to be aware of countries on the other side of the globe that were waging war, leaving crumbled communities, smoldering streets, and shattered spirits in their wake.
The real-time photographs I scrolled through on my phone looked like a journalist had captured the rubble with black-and-white film, all the city’s color wiped away.
It’s a world away, the headline proclaimed.
But it’s not a world away, I think as my dog rolls in the leaves.
It’s our world, the one God so loved.
All this pain and suffering is happening now. I don’t know how to hold that reality.
How can it be that mothers rock their hungry babies in bomb shelters while my kids eat after-school cookies at the kitchen table, forgetting to put the lid back on the milk?
What does home look like for a family when war robs life of its color, its vibrant hues suddenly grayscale?
I want to rid my mind of the memory of what I’ve seen. I don’t want to hold onto evidence of a warring world, parts of a puzzle I cannot piece together.
It’s easy for me to speak of beauty, hope, and wonder from this view, my view, one of soft breezes and sturdy bricks. Safety and security are words that not everyone gets to write; I know this.
My heart constricts. Like David in Psalm 13, I ask, How long, O Lord?
Why does clean, fresh water sit in my dog’s bowl inside our well-stocked kitchen while, at the same time, a mother gives her thirsty child contaminated water because it’s all they have to drink?
I realize I’m still standing in the same place, staring at the same view of home like it’s one of those pictures where a new image will appear if you gaze long enough.
When your heart aches with unanswered prayer, when you feel overwhelmed by the weight of a weary world, remember this: God understands the complex wonderings of a human heart.
Moved in mercy, Jesus took on flesh and became like us. In Christ, we are not left alone as we process pain.
God is in the war zone. God is in the autumn breeze.
There is so much we don’t know; this is true. But we can hold stubborn hope that this, too, is true: God is with us.
To be awake to our seemingly ordinary lives – to the leaves that shimmer in the golden light – is also to be tender to the cries of our warring world, the one God so loved.
We live in a world where peace and war swirl, where the sacred and the profane commingle. In one breath, we give thanks in awe of the goodness of God. And in the next, we cry out, asking God how long the pain will last.
When your heart aches for a widow who weeps on the other side of the world, when you cry for a child caught in the crossfires of war, remember that your compassion for humanity reflects the very heart of God.
You cry for another because He first cried for you.
You pray for another because He first prayed for you.
You advocate for another because He first advocated for you.
You love another because He first loved you (1 John 4:19).
In light of God’s compassion, may you be brave enough to stay tender to the world’s beauty and pain. When the world feels off its axis, may hope-soaked sunbeams warm your tear-streaked face. May you experience Christ alongside you – in both the joy and the sorrow that comes with being human and honoring the humanity of another. May God’s mercy move you to extend mercy to another, knowing that we love because He first loved us.
Find more hope to help you stay awake to the beauty and pain of the world in Kayla’s new book Every Season Sacred, a year-long devotional filled with reflections and prayers to nourish your soul as you nurture your family.