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I Know Iraq Will Be Okay...Eventually

A long time ago, in 2003 on the night before the US invasion of Iraq, I had a very vivid dream that I still remember now. In this dream, I was standing in the middle of Iraq. It was barren and covered in the darkness of night. From where I stood, I could see every border of the country surrounding me through the darkness. I was alone. I then saw the northern end of the country catch on fire. This fire quickly spread. Eventually, every line of this country's perimeter was on fire. The flames grew tall and I grew afraid. I considered leaping over the flames before they grew too high, but the fire spread too fast and I was soon trapped on all sides. My mind went back and forth, trying to find an escape. Could I dare try running through them as fast as possible? Could I try jumping over them? Would I suffocate or burn if I stood where I was? I was alone, so no one could help me. Yet, even as the fire grew around me, it did not touch me. Even as it threatened to cover the entire nation, I was untouched. I was so scared, but it did not engulf me as I feared it would.

At the time of this dream, I was a high school student with a mind that had just digested books like 1984Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 as well as more war histories than any teenager should ever really read. I thought I knew everything and I thought my president was an idiot for going to war over a bunch of blurry satellite pictures of "weapons of mass destruction" while ignoring the heavily armed nation of North Korea that was constantly killing its own persecuted people and sending rockets into South Korea. I got in a bit of trouble one day for wearing a backpack with a small sign attached to it saying "This war is all Bush" with the letters "l," "l," "i," and "t" artfully arranged into the sign so that it ultimately read...well...you can imagine. I was asked if that's what I really thought of the whole thing. I said yes. Keep in mind, this was 2003 and the nation was still, in some ways, reeling from the September 11th attacks and demanding retribution. Now that's something you don't see in the media these days...the sentiment of the nation that allowed Bush to declare war. I don't think we would have allowed him to declare war in Iraq if September 11th had never happened and so I can never fully blame him or Cheney for the events that transpired in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years to follow. All things considered, as much as I wanted Iraq to be free from Hussein, I did not support the war that ensued...and continued to ensue in the years that followed.

This dream made little sense to me in the years that followed....but I never forgot it. It is still vividly imprinted in my mind and I keep thinking about it now because it is finally starting to make sense. I told my husband so a few weeks ago as more and more news of beheadings, crucifixions, and murder came out of Iraq. This dream was not about the US invasion...but of the consequences that would come with it. It is the Christians and other religious minorities that are currently trapped in Iraq with enemies on all sides, threatening to suffocate their faith with their destruction. Yet, even with all the violence and senseless murder, no member of ISIS can destroy faith. They will destroy until they rule a pile of ashes in the middle of the desert, but they will not triumph. Both scripture and nature tell us that much. To God goes all the victory and every Iraqi martyr is a victory for God if that person's soul is now in heaven. Ultimately, that is what is important. Salvation.

Though the blood of martyrs currently flows over Mosul and other occupied cities, this blood will bring more sanctification if history is any teacher. Remember Rome? Remember the triumph of Christ over Rome though its streets once flowed with the blood of Christian martyrs, the triumph that came after so much destruction and death? Remember the stories of countless missionaries that were killed over the history of the church? Where did each of these martyrs go and how many Christians do you see in these places now? A prime example comes from Pope Francis' recent visit to South Korea. Look at the images of millions on the street, waiting to hear his words! It's hard to imagine that this nation was once the site of martyrdom.
The same Catholic Rome we know today was once home to one of the greatest persecutions of Christians in history.
Read Quo Vadis for more on this scene. It is a wonderful historical fiction that will give you a good idea of what once occurred to countless Christians that suffered under intense persecution.
These Muslim extremists don't realize it yet, but they are on a path to self-destruction. The death they bring now is the death of their own twisted faith. Their actions blaspheme the God they claim to serve...but these actions, awful as they are, will ultimately make Iraq a Christian nation. God does not operate on our time, he is far too patient for that. We see only fire and ashes now...but he sees the results of a great forest fire. The land that was once barren will be made fertile again and from these ashes will grow a forest from the seeds of every tree that crafted into a cross. We must decrease while he must increase. We may not see the renewal that will come to this land in our lifetimes, but it is coming. Even those who don't believe should know enough about history to know that persecutions ultimately lead to great conversions. It may take tens or hundreds of years for Iraq's lands to be renewed, but it is coming.

We may see fewer and fewer Christians in Iraq right now...but God has plans for those that remain. He has plans for those in Iraq who may not be Christian, but happened to witness the bravery of those who died in the name of Christ. Perhaps these witnesses will feel the presence of God now whenever they pass through a site where Christian children, the Holy Innocents of today, were slaughtered. Then will they know that there was something about the faith that these children died for...something that was lacking from the faith that was twisted by these militant extremists. Maybe they will convert in secret. Maybe they will baptize their children as Christians. Maybe their neighbors will do the same. Maybe more and more people will realize that there was holiness in the Christian martyrdoms that we are witnessing today. Maybe the sites of these horrific beheadings and deaths will one day become pilgrimage sites and shrines dedicated to these martyred saints. ISIS may feel that these horrific deaths will scare us into submission. However, I feel that the gruesome nature of these murders will only make it harder for the martyrdom of these Christians to be forgotten.

The true enemy of Christianity is not death. The true enemy of Christianity is the lukewarm complacency that comes from forgetting. When we remember the people that have fallen for our own salvation and for our own freedoms as Christians, we cannot help but become better Christians. We cannot help but be more committed to our faith when we remember the heavy sacrifices that came with it.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic blog brother!!!
    I'm really really interested in learning how to speak and ESPECIALLY pray in Latin also. I appreciate your efforts into encouraging others to pray in Latin. It was a random thought I had to learn it, weeks after I watched braveheart and heard the priest pray for a few seconds.
    I'm a strong Christian, (penecostal) seeking out a better form of communication with God and to develop a more in-depth understanding of prayer in such a strong language, and how to express that to others.
    From Australia, Mason.

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