Monday, October 13, 2014

An "Umbrella" People

In Hong Kong last month, thousands of students used umbrellas to shield themselves from police pepper spray.  It's since been called the "Umbrella Revolution," and so many have been drawn by the courage and audacity these young people have shown in their stand for democracy and defiance of Beijing.

The picture by itself is stunning.  Just imagine yourself in that same situation; imagine caring about something that much.

It reminds me of a route I used to run in Baku, Azerbaijan when Melissa and I lived there 7 years ago.  I would run up a hill and up to the point with the most picturesque view of the entire harbor.  We affectionately named the spot "the high place," and would visit it frequently for it had a marvelous little tea house nearby.  But it was also the home of a series of monuments.

These monuments were dedicated to Azeris long gone during the struggle the country had separating from the Soviet Union.  They were monuments to freedom fighters.  I found out much too late in our time there that these freedom fighters had a grisly story.  I never realized that large numbers of the monuments had pictures of teens on them--children maybe 14 years old.  These teens, and many beside them, would stand in front of the tanks that the Soviet Union would bring into town to squash the uprising.  These monuments were not for the famous and gifted, they were for the dead, those squashed by tanks.  These martyrs, some of them just young kids, believed in their cause to the degree that they were willing to stand unmoved before mechanized vehicles and suffer brutally.  They stood unmoved.

I remember weeping once the realization hit me.  Once I finally allowed myself to feel what they must have felt, I broke down.

It was only after crying for a few moments that I realized that I was crying for myself.

This wasn't an empathetic I-can't-believe-this-horrible-thing-happened cry.  My tears were deeper, and they stung more.

I claimed to follow Christ and serve him alone.  I claimed to be giving my life in the service of others.  I was a missionary.  Yet, I now cried because I had never before believed in anything with even a fraction of the zeal that these young martyrs had.  I had no umbrella, nor was I willing to stand.  I had no courage to refuse to blink before a tank.  I had a cushy and pampered faith -- and it crushed me.

And it haunts me to this day.  Do I honestly believe that which I proclaim, and if so, would I be willing to take my stand with the brave and fight for that which I know is right?  Has the cushiness of the western lifestyle created in me a faith that is tamed and watered-down?  Would I stand with my metaphorical umbrella should I see the world's need arise?  And, for that matter, would I even have the courage to look and see and feel that need?

What would your life look like, should you choose to pick up your umbrella and take a stand?  What would you do if you were fully alive, giving yourself over for the sake of others?

I wonder if we should stop talking so much about our financial plans, our giftings, our passions, our desires, and our callings, and start talking more about our willingness or unwillingness to fiercely and bravely take a stand with those that fight for goodness and peace and justice?  I wonder if I need to cry more often for my sin and apathy and fear, and if many others need to join me.

No comments: