It was two days after the images of Aylan (the three year old Syrian refugee boy who drowned at sea last week) were released, that I finally found the space to engage with the reality of his death.
His death was a moment that captured the reality of the pain and suffering of so many who have fled Syria seeking refuge over the last five years. Aylan’s tragic death has captured the world’s attention.
When I finally did engage with those images and his story, I found myself sitting in a meeting with tears welling up in my eyes.
I was angry that it had taken me so long to engage with Aylan’s story.
Life is full. For the most part, it’s full of important things. At the moment, I’m finding that there isn’t much space left at the margins of life for me to be interrupted by stories like Aylan’s and the mess of other people’s pain.
Sometimes life seems to press in on me. My sense is that when life presses in on us, most people’s first reaction is to disengage. It all seems too hard. Personally, I feel like I get caught up with managing life rather than living it.
If I was living life, rather than managing it, I would have the space to mourn the death of Aylan and many like him. I might not have the space to respond to every crisis, but my first reaction wouldn’t be to disengage from it simply because it all seemed too hard.
I know that I’m not alone in feeling like I don’t have ‘space’ to allow myself to mourn or engage. So how should we respond when we realise that we don’t have the space to be affected by things that we know should affect us?
In Psalm 118, verse 5 we’re told that the writer of the Psalm is hard pressed and hemmed in. He cries out to God and God’s response is to bring him into a ‘spacious place’.
What a beautiful image. When we feel like everything in life is conspiring to hem us in, we cry out to God and God brings us into a spacious place.
So, in response to a crisis like Syria, our first response can’t be to disengage. Our first response must be to engage. To engage first with God in prayer and to ask God to bring us into a spacious place.
In a spacious place, we’ve got time to breathe. In a spacious place, we’ve got capacity to step out of our own problems and create room for others. A spacious place is where life is lived not merely managed.
So, I’m praying with my family at the moment for God to bring us into a spacious place. I’m praying the same thing for our nation. Physically, we’re a spacious country. We have the capacity to accept many more refugees. I pray that we would also be a spacious place culturally. A place where those seeking asylum from conflict can find a home. I believe that when we make space to embrace others our own lives are enriched.
God bring us into a spacious place.