I would have thought that after seven years things would be different, but as I have pored over the primary source material of my research project this week, I had cause to return to the journal I had written during the time of Samuel’s hospitalisation. I read the entry written on the night he was born, weighing 725 grams, and 16 weeks before he was due. I found the deep reservoir of emotion stirring within me once again. It touched a place which I thought had healed: one I believed I had come to terms with. Yet the power of the memory was still great. Tears welled in my eyes as I recalled that night. More than seven years later.
Even as I reflect on that unexpected response, it strikes me that we are a hardened people, conditioned by images of violence and brutality on the news, as suffering appears before us in the guise of the report. Bart Simpson’s observation to his sister Lisa is poignant, “How are you going to become desensitized to violence unless you watch it?”
Night after night, on the news, and in programs presented as “entertainment”, we watch presentations, dissections and forensic analysis of all manner of violent acts. The technology behind these presentations is stunning. But at what cost to our humanity?
We live in a world of immense suffering, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by its reality. Thirty-thousand children a day die from preventable disease. Four million people a year die as the result of vehicle accidents. In South Africa alone each year, there is one homicide committed per 2000 people in the population, compared with 1 per 58000 Sydneysiders. The gangland killings have drawn a curious response in Melbourne, with nary a tear shed amongst the general population.
When Jesus looked over Jerusalem, he wept for her (Luke 19:41), as he realised her loss of peace. We look at Jerusalem today with different eyes. Our familiarity with violence inures us against its human cost. And this translates to our understanding of God. We have heard the stories of Jesus’ suffering so often that we no longer feel the intensity of his suffering. The stark reality is lost behind the veneer painted by our familiarity with violence.
Lord, teach us to weep afresh: for Your world, for its people, for our contribution to its suffering and pain. When Job spoke of the impact of his suffering, he described it as softening his hearts. Lord, make our hearts soft. It is the only way we can be strong in You.
June 6, 2004