In my youth, my mother employed a simple test to discern whether or not I was telling the truth. She would say, “Look me in the eye and tell me that.” Her method was based on sound theory, since it is hard to look someone straight in the eye and lie. Some can tell a “bold-faced” lie, but it takes practice.
The eyes are the windows to the soul. In them, we see hurt, worry, fear, doubt and sorrow. We also see happiness, joy, confidence and love. If I want to hide my feelings from another human being, I try not to make eye contact. If I want to speak from the heart and know what is on someone else’s heart, I look them in the eye.
The Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 proclaims, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” While we cannot look on the full glory of God, we can sense His presence as we read His Word and lift our voices in prayer. This is how we “look God in the eye” as He turns his face toward us and our innermost thoughts and feelings are laid bare before Him.
I think on these things as I try to understand why my soul is downcast in the wake of events in the country of Afghanistan. I feel anger, sadness, embarrassment and fear. While I feel certain I am not alone in my emotions, I think I may have discovered one reason they seem to grow stronger with each passing hour. There are many people I want to look in the eye. I want to be honest with them about the way I feel, as opposed to merely venting with my friends who, like me, are huddled safe in their homes a world away from the chaos in Afghanistan.
I believe it will be some time, if ever, when I am able to share how I feel with the people who need to hear it. At the risk of doing what I have just deemed somewhat irrelevant, I invite you into my heart as I express words to those I may never meet.
To members of the armed services: “I want you to know how very grateful I am for your service to our country. You have placed yourself in harm’s way to stem the tide of terrorism and make our home safer. Only the Lord knows the evil your intervention has prevented, or the crimes you have witnessed. For those of you who have lost friends in battle and/or suffered life altering injuries, as I live out my freedom, I will think of you. I pray for you as you live with scars, internal and external, and ask God to sustain you with His providential love.”
To the Afghan people: “While some say you failed to do your part to defend your own country, I want you to know, while this may be true of some, I do not believe it is true of all. Many of you fought valiantly alongside our military. You courageously opened businesses, educated children, shared your opinions and protected your neighbors. I do not know the portion of your society you represent; only that you exist. How afraid you must be for yourselves and your family, as many will not survive the events that will unfold over the next days and weeks. I pray for you as you fight for your life and the lives of your loved ones, and I thank you for walking with us in your quest for freedom.”
To women and girls in Afghanistan: “I hurt for you most of all because I know those who have seized power do not treasure and love you as God does. Some of you have already suffered unimaginable physical and emotional pain and are likely to experience more as the potential God put in you is stripped away, one possibility at a time. For those of you who have chosen to defy your oppressors, I pray for you as you stand in the gap for others. I would love to look you in the eye and remind you that regardless of the circumstances that others might impose on you, it does not change the beauty God put in you, or the pride He has in you. Eloquence cannot wish away the tragedy that awaits you. But I pray God will show you His presence in some way and protect you from the worst.”
To my brothers and sisters in Christ in Afghanistan: “We refer to you as the persecuted church. I wonder how you see yourselves as you share in the sufferings of Christ. I suspect you are consumed with concern for one another, and are not only caring for your own, but reaching out to your neighbor. Soon, if not already, you may face the choice between renouncing your faith and forfeiting your life. Apart from this horrific reality, you must also fear for your families; your children and grandchildren. I pray that God will shelter you, and that He will help you persevere. Regardless of the pain you may experience in the days ahead, I also pray for spiritual strength as you cling to the cross and our promise of eternal life in Jesus.”
There are some others I would like to “look in the eye”, but I confess I am embarrassed by the things I want to tell them, and do not believe my words would honor God or help any of us deal with the catastrophe before us. I have chosen not to identify any of these individuals, but I will say I grow tired of being lied to, hearing people cast blame, seeing thugs hide behind their religion and several other clear indications that we are a fallen human race, capable of sinning in ways that are difficult to comprehend.
I pray because I believe God can and may intervene in the lives of those who are suffering. I pray because I believe every single person, including those who do evil, are children of God, and desperately need the grace I have received through my Savior Jesus. I pray and ask others to join me in prayer because I believe in the value of collectively coming before the Lord.
Honestly, I also pray because I don’t know what else to do. I cannot look the people I am thinking of in the eye, but I can fall before God and ask Him to comfort them with His presence. In recent days God has been calling out to me in my self-imposed spiritual exile. I have been hiding some of my thoughts from Him because I haven’t been sure what to say. But now He is challenging me: “Look me in the eye!” It is time to come clean because it is impossible to tell God a bold-faced lie.