About a year ago, I had the privilege of hearing the story of Amanda Lindhout. To make a long (amazing) story short, Amanda traveled to Somalia “the most dangerous place on earth,” to photograph and learn more about those affected by wars, famine, and drought.
She was kidnapped after a short time and spent 460 days in captivity.
While in captivity she was abused in every way imaginable and somehow found a way to forgive her captives while they abused her, to find empathy for their story, while their story affected her own in traumatic and devastating ways. Mind-blowing forgiveness. There is not a person I tell the story to who doesn’t sit in awe for a moment. As I heard her speak, I was in awe myself.
She also told her story of an attempted escape. Her and her fellow captive managed to get to a mosque. Unfortunately, her captors eventually found her as well but she tells the story of an older woman who literally laid down on her body in order to try and prevent her captives from re-taking her. The woman screamed and yelled and did everything she could for this white stranger, risking her own life. The last image Amanda saw of this mystery woman she was lying on the floor of the mosque, with tears, reaching out her own hands to try to reach her.
The story was maybe the most powerful I’ve ever heard. Gorgeous. Inspiring and humbling.
Amanda has since returned to Somalia numerous times to continue to try and help the people there and continue her own path of replacing anger with grace.
At the end of the story, I remember a friend of mine looking at me and saying, “Amazing story. Too bad that Muslim woman and Amanda are going to Hell” because they aren’t Christians.
She was being sarcastic. (I’m really trying to be less sarcastic but man, I joined in on that one.)
Another friend added, “Isn’t it too bad the devil gets all the good ones?”
I mean, honestly, doesn’t it seem that way sometimes with certain religious world views?
There are, apparently, so many good people, saving the world, laying down their life for others, who haven’t said a prayer, and so many people who have said a prayer, waiting on their couch for the world to end in doom and destruction and the second group keep saying it’s not about “being good”.
If I was being sarcastic I might say... well that’s great that you have a nice little saying to make you feel better while you sit on that couch.
Jesus talked about feeding people, visiting them in jail, and, not to put words in his mouth, but laying down your life for strangers in a mosque and forgiving someone as they are physically assaulting you.
And it wasn’t about action. That just gets us back to doing more. It was about a perspective and attitude and awareness that enables us to do those things for our fellow humans and for the divine because we are drawn to both of them all around us.
When you have that, at least in the story of the sheep and goats, God says come on in to a world that is much better than you anticipate. When you don’t, God says away from me. I, the divine, don’t live in the world where you refuse to recognize it in everyone.