My calm, mundane afternoon became a battleground of emotion after I took a nap. Recently, I have felt a prompting to read a book I received as a graduation gift. This book was anything but a feel-good novel; instead, it was collection of retellings of martyrdoms. Jesus Freaks: Martyrs. I began reading the horrific collection of anecdotes shortly after it was given to me, and I found that tears would well up in my eyes more often than not. I only ever made it halfway through the book.
The words came to life on the pages, and painted me an all-too-real picture of horrendous torture. These courageous, morbid retellings begged an answer from me; would I die for what I believe? I can’t express to you how easy it was for me to say “yes” before opening the cover of this book. But now, a simple “yes,” brought to mind the taste of blood, the crippling feeling of suffocation, and the stench of rotting flesh. Suddenly, it wasn’t so easy to say “yes.” This book was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever experienced. It’s a scary thing to scrutinize your faith so intensely.
Now, I felt that God was calling me to venture into its emotionally treacherous pages once again. Lately, I’ve become miserably bored. But when that boredom would come up, and the thought of the book would be presented, I would always choose a nap over sob-inducing tales of woe.
Today, God had other things in store; these other things began with a dream.
I was hiding. I don’t know from whom, but I knew that they wanted to cause me harm. I thought I had found refuge in the shadow of a barrel. My heart raced. Sweat covered my face. I was face-to-face with terror I had never known before. With a sharp jerk, I was exposed to my pursuers’ judgmental eyes. This large, angry man had my upper arm held in his hand, and his capture was anything but gentle. I could feel his vile, hot breath on my panicked face as he dragged me out into the open. What he handed me was odd, but I didn’t have time to really analyze the oddity with so much adrenaline pumping through my veins. It was a receipt of sorts, with three items recorded. The words were illegible, however. “This is a list of reasons you should be arrested. But we’ll just cut your fingers off instead.” and with that, he pulled out a pocket knife, and wasted no time. He began with my right thumb. At first, I fought back. I used every once of strength I could summon in an attempt to avoid the anticipated pain, but my struggle was short-lived. In believing what I do, I signed up for this. I let it happen. Against all logic, I began to sing. “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” I saw a blinding light, and felt only a dull pain, and the angry men around me disappeared.
When I woke up, I breathed a sigh of relief as I looked at my hand. Unscathed. But my face was wet. I had been crying– and that was only the beginning. I had been disobedient to God’s prompting on my heart, but this dream couldn’t be ignored like the book under my bed. It took me a few moments of being enveloped by the silence and my reflective thoughts, but once I had processed it all, tears streamed down my face, and I sobbed without any shame for my persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
It’s disturbing to think about. It makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s easy to avoid, for the time being. We can turn off the television. We can hide it from our newsfeeds. We can turn off our hearts.
While this is something I think we’re all guilty of, it’s abominable.
This is reality. These things happen. I feel almost pretentious in writing about the matter because I know how shielded I am. Or, more specifically, how I’ve shielded myself from it.
The horrific pains our brethren face every day don’t disappear just because we close our eyes and hearts.
So don’t. I’ve found in this life that, when my heart hurts for someone or a group of people, they manifest themselves in my mind. This can be utilized as a tool. Use that pain and empathy to pray for them– not just once, either. Pray for the persecuted every day. If it’s on your mind, you’re also more likely to talk about it. Remind your brothers and sisters around you of the inhumanity people are experiencing because of their faith. Because it’s not always in our faces, it’s easy to forget about. But I beg that we don’t.