June 24, 2018
I heard a song the other day. It goes:
God will make a way, when there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see,
He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide, hold me closely to his side,
With love and strength for each new day,
He will make a way, He will make a way
It’s the song of a woman from Burkino Faso, the small country in West Africa from which she fled in order to find asylum in the United States. Her journey began happily enough. She was the 18 year-old bride of a neighbor who befriended her as she and her friends walked to school each day. Over the course of the year she fell in love and the man paid her family a dowry and she became his wife.
When she moved into his house she discovered that he had two young children from a previous wife who was no longer there, but she wasn’t upset because the children were good and they wanted a mother so much that they loved her right away. So, she took care of them and soon became pregnant herself.
But, that’s when the problems began. The man began drinking a lot, and when he drank he became cruel. He demeaned her in front of his friends. He called her fat though of course it was his child she was carrying. He became violent with her, and when she declined his sexual advances he became more violent. She didn’t begin fearing for her life until the man no longer stopped hitting her even after the blood started flowing. Then one day he took a knife and he stabbed her twice in the back.
Until that point leaving him and returning to her family or fleeing wasn’t really an option. The dowry he paid was essentially his purchase of her. She belonged to him and to leave would bring shame and even danger to her family. But, having survived the stabbing she refused to return to him this time. Her family took her back in. But then, one night sleeping with her two sisters, the man returned with his truck and drove it through the side of the house pinning the girls against the wall, nearly killing them.
Their father called the police, but the police offered the woman no help. It was a family matter, they said. Work it out with your husband, they said. So, she began plans to flea to the US, and what kept her going the whole time was her faith. “God will make a way, when there seems to be no way.” This was her song, and her prayer, and her belief. Her God would see her through.
The interview that I listened to was a number of years later. She had been granted asylum and was living here in the US. She was working and getting her degree, and after graduating she was planning to work in a field where she could help others who were dealing with domestic abuse.
The interviewer asked her about the emotional scars that she carries. She said she’ll carry them forever. He asked her about joy and if she had the ability to laugh. She said yes. Despite it all she was in love again and preparing to get married. She laughs quite a lot, she said. Like when? Like when she sees men pushing babies in strollers. She laughs to see men caring for their children in ways they never would in her home country. She laughs because her new life is safe and beautiful. She sang one more time as the interview came to an end, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way.”
The woman’s story came to mind for a couple of reasons. First, of course because under our government’s new policy of not considering domestic abuse as a criterion for asylum it is very unlikely that she would be admitted, and that I think is sad for us, not to mention the many others who share her plight. I share it too because the woman’s faith, the peace with which she sang, her sincere reliance upon God for comfort and hope is a testimony that I find both inspiring and challenging at the same time.
I fear, because I know the inclination in myself, that God is too often and too easily relegated to the tangents for too many of us. The God who “makes a way where this is no way” takes a back seat to the God whom we will get to when Sunday comes around, or the God for whom we have requests but perhaps not so much love, to the God who may add a certain something special to our lives but doesn’t so much fill them and satisfy them. This woman, who called herself Mariam, had a potent God, a God from whom she could expect to receive, a God upon whom she depended.
We just heard the very familiar story of Jesus calming the storm that so violently rocked the boat in which he and his disciples sailed. Interestingly, I read in multiple commentaries how Christ’s words to the storm, “Peace, be still,” don’t properly convey the tone of the original Greek. Literally, “Shut up!” he says to the wind and sea. He rebukes the storm the same way he rebukes the spirits that infect the possessed. Christ, asleep on the boat, is a more potent and powerful force than any storm might be, and it is Christ who is the answer to the fear the overcomes his followers.
One of my commentaries writes, “Fear is confronted in this story, but not by a sudden burst of courage or resolve on the part of the disciples. In the course of the storm, they never themselves pull themselves together. They do not, at least not on their own, discover inner resources they didn’t not know they had. Rather, it is Jesus who calms both them and the storm with the power of his presence. Faithful proclamation of this text will, therefore, not so much challenge hearers to discover forgotten courage in themselves as it will invite them to turn again to the Lord of wind and wave, the one we trust to be more powerful than both Galilean storms and the storms that rage in our lives.”
The message, of course, is not that there’s nothing to be afraid of. That’s real water flooding their boat. And, there are real smugglers bringing poisonous drugs into our country. There are real terrorists bent on sneaking in. The message is not that there’s nothing to be afraid of. The message is, “Don’t be afraid. You are not alone in the boat.” God is with you. God is with us.
And another thing, the God who makes a way where there seems to be no way, very often does it through people who have faith enough to be the way. Mariam found it in the compassion of our country, which received her despite the risks. Where will others like her and unlike her find it? Where will we find it or anyone find it if it is fear that we listen to?
June 14, 2018: https://www.nytimes.com/podcasts/the-daily
Michael Lindvall, FOTW, Year B Volume 3, pages 164-166.