I, like much of the world, cannot get the image of little Aylan, lying on the shore of a Turkish beach, out of my mind. I cry whenever I see footage of the refugees, feeling so hopelessly far away to do anything.
I’ve learned to pay attention to my tears and so I’ve been thinking about them as I pray.
It seems that the death of this sweet boy is changing the world, transforming what so many have seen as simply a nuisance. One heartbreaking photograph has awoken us to the tragedy that these people– with histories and families and anguish of a world turned upside down– deserve to be treated as guests, not as dispensable.
And I wonder how it feels to his father, who lost both of his sons and his wife while trying to bring them to safety. What it must be like to know that a world is staring at his sweet boy’s lifeless body on the shore of the sea.
Whenever we share Annie’s story, a battle ensues in my heart. I want so much to hold her close to me, to treasure my memories and what little time we had with her. I don’t always want to share her. What we had was so short and in my selfishness I want to keep it all to myself.
But something happens when we share her… when we allow God to redeem our pain and work in the lives of other people. I find that it doesn’t diminish the gift of her life, but it strangely expands it. It’s unexplainable and you’d think that after almost six years I’d be quicker to share, quicker to let go of my desire to gather it all close to me.
I fully realize that little Aylan may be the catalyst to save the lives of millions in an unbelievable crisis. I see how God uses what is viewed as the weakest among us to do powerful things.
But behind it all, I see a father in the deepest of griefs. I can imagine the pain and cost that comes with the family he has lost.
Last week Peter shared our family’s story in his sermon. It’s been awhile since he’s done it and I was so anxious the whole morning. I knew it was the right thing for him to do, however it just doesn’t get any easier. I texted my friend after the service saying I’m glad God uses our story… but I just wish it was someone else’s story.
The weight of carrying something so precious is unbearable sometimes. I get stuck weighing out the pros and cons. The death of little Aylan may save countless lives, and the impact of those photographs will circle the world. But underneath it all is a father, who will live with unbelievable grief for the rest of his days. He will carry those photographs like none of the rest of us will. For us, we see just a photo. For him, a million memories and a shattered heart.
In a small way, I understand. I vacillate between the why questions and the aha moments. There are times when I look at our story and am in such awe God would trust us with Annie’s life, with sharing this story and experiencing the amazing ways He is changing others through someone who couldn’t even speak or walk. And yet, I miss her so. When the school year starts, when we take a family photo, in a million little and big ways I’m reminded of the gaping hole in our family.
So today, I am praying. For those beautiful, amazing people who are fleeing for their lives. Their faces make me weep. And I am praying for Aylan’s father, who must hold lightly to his son who has captured the world in his death. In his deepest of grief, may he have the courage to see that God can use the smallest to bring rescue.
Come, Jesus. Oh, how we need You to bring peace to our chaos and joy to our sorrow.
(The Bible is clear about the importance of bring justice to the oppressed. We, as the Church, have to act. Ann Voskamp has an excellent list of ways you can help.)