*I'm sharing a story along with a litany today. I usually try to keep strictly to the prayers, but maybe sometimes a story will give context for how a litany can be a useful place to go, a useful tool in a kit for coping with the reality of evil and posturing ourselves towards Jesus.
I accidentally told my 5 year old daughter about ISIS. Oops.
The conversation started at bedtime, as many of our deep conversations do, in those still moments when mostly I’m feeling antsy and ready to be done parenting for the day but am trying to remain present and sing songs, talk quietly, help them decompress for sleep. I don’t even really remember how we got started, but I was caught off guard and unprepared for the line of questioning, and ISIS has been on my mind so therefore I let the ISIS cat out of the bag. I also have this pesky value for telling my kids the truth that sometimes trips me up.
I think we were talking about kindness, and in the context of that I said the word “violence.”
It’s doing things that hurt people.
Like being mean?
Yes. We want to be kind, not violent.
But some people are violent?
Yes, some people are.
You mean some people are mean?
Where do they live?
Well, there are mean people everywhere, but I don’t think you know any.
(My kid just learned that mean people exist. Hallelujah. Christ, have mercy.)
But WHERE ARE THEY?
Well, there are some mean people in a place far away called the Middle East, they call themselves ISIS.
(Oh I have done it now. Instant regret. No turning back now.)
What do they do? Do they kill people?
Yes, they do. They do violence.
How do they do it? With bow and arrows? With guns?
(Here is where my head is finally on straight and I refuse to mention bombs. I deflect, for better or worse.)
Why do they do it?
I think they are confused about what God’s way is. God’s way is love, peace, and beauty.
Do they have neighbors and friends? Do they try to hurt them?
They have neighbors; I don’t know if they have friends.
Are they sad and lonely?
I think they might be.
What do the neighbors do?
I think some try to help them change, and some try to move away to a safer place.
THAT MAKES ME SO SAD. I’M GONNA CRY NOW, MAMA.
You and me both, sister. Now, let me pause here and say that this is an abbreviated version of the conversation, and that my mind was churning with how best to respond. There were a lot of other questions. (Do they wear red and black clothes? They wear regular clothes.) (How do you know about them? I read the news.) She is a very empathetic soul, and I don’t want her up in the night worrying about terrorists and refugees at age 5. But I do want to give her a place to go with the sorrow. So I say:
Jesus tells us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.”
Be mean to. Would you like to pray for ISIS and their neighbors?
Jesus please bless the people of ISIS. Please show them your way of love, peace, and beauty. Please change their hearts and show them kindness. Help them not to be confused about God’s way.
AND HELP THEIR NEIGHBORS MOVE!
Help their neighbors find a safe place. Help the mean people become kind.
I held hands with my sweet little daughter, lying in her little bed, and prayed for the redemption of ISIS. This is the story of how my parenting gaffe made possible a moment of impossible beauty and sadness. My head is still swimming with it. And isn’t this typical of Jesus? To hide a core of beauty within apparent sadness? Isn’t this exactly what happened on Resurrection Day? So, there is sadness that my child must eventually have the knowledge of good and evil, and that other children live in the lap of evil daily; but there is beauty that THERE IS ALWAYS PRAYER. There is always a beautiful way to follow. There is always hope. And there is always, always forgiveness and redemption.
I invite you to pray now:
Resurrected Jesus, we call upon your mercy now.
We ask you to turn your attention to our enemies, those who do violence and terror, who kill and destroy.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
We ask you to bless, love, and redeem them; to show them the kindness of your heart.
We ask you to lovingly clear up their misunderstanding of God’s way.
We ask you to care for and protect those innocents around them.
We ask you to bring them all, violent and innocent, into the safety of your kingdom.