I heard first that 295 of your daughters and sons were killed on the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine today. Now the number is 298. Ah well, three more souls, no big deal.
Gracious One, what’s happening to us? We can’t seem to stop blowing each other up. Let’s see: Amish school girls, Connecticut first graders and teachers, Colorado folks out to catch a movie, and just yesterday, four boys playing soccer on a Gaza beach.
And now, almost three hundred of your children fall from the sky. I confess, their descent haunts me. You know, I hate flying. While in flight, I imagine the plane nose down, spiraling toward the earth. On impact, my face and chest smash into the seat in front of me. It would happen so fast I wouldn’t experience any pain, but in my nightmare I feel it all.
And I’ve dreamed—many times, even safe on the ground—something like what happened today in Ukraine: the plane in pieces and me stunned in the frigid air, the ground rushing toward me. At 33,000 feet, would you pass out on your way down and die before landing? It doesn’t matter, God, I’m awake for everything, including the instant crush of death.
In an odd way, this prayer is selfish. Not everybody on that plane out of Amsterdam was blessed to die when the missile hit the plane, blessed to pass from this world to you as they slept, one head resting on a beloved shoulder or held hands or said, “You know, in Kuala Lumpur we’ll have to . . . .” Some must have shot out into the open air and at least for a couple of seconds reckoned, traveling through cloud-blindness to the sight of green fields, the immediate future.
It’s these brothers and sisters I’m praying for. I have no clue how you work and whether it’s possible to ask you for a grace whose time has already passed. Well, I’m asking anyway. This is crazy, but may it be so that you touched the wicked shock of your children’s last moments. I dream this prayer:
They soared above oxygen, but you gave them the breath of peace. They spun and somersaulted, but you spoke into the ear of their hearts: “Laugh and love the view. I’ll catch you on the ground.” They didn’t grieve what they never said to those they loved because you comforted them: “I’ve prepared a place for you—all of you.” Most of all, you helped them stay awake, free from fear, and they said, “Mercy, so this is what it’s like to fly!” Then they woke up, and you were cradling them, looking into their eyes.
“What was that place?” they asked you. “I remember loving and crying. Why were we always hurting each other?”
But since you were holding them, they forgot the question. They had flown, and you had caught them. What bomb or bullet could touch them now?
In eternity, God, may needful answers descend slowly upon all of us. And may our arms be used only for embracing.