crack –  verb | \ˈkrak\

: to break (something) so that there are lines in its surface but it is usually not separated into pieces
: to hit or press (something) so hard that it breaks apart or opens suddenly
: to hit (someone or something) hard and usually suddenly

I felt the earth crack a little wider this weekend when news of the bombings and gunfire in Paris began to circulate on my Facebook feed. Just the day before Lebanon was shaken with two suicide bombs, the US was conducting airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, and a drone supposedly killed Jihadi John, the man seen in so many of the beheading videos.

On Facebook, I layered the French flag over my profile picture as an act of defiance, solidarity, grief, heartbreak. Others were doing the same. Then my feed filled with articles about why standing with Paris in that way was ethnocentric. Why did I not use the Lebanese flag? Or why, months ago during the school siege by Al-Shabaab, did I not stand in solidarity with Kenya with a red, green, and black overlay? And I wondered why, now, that that Kenya news story was circulating on Facebook as though it had just happened.

Last week I also learned of the murder of a young wife and mother in her home in the city where I used to live, a woman just one degree of separation from me. And I felt her death more acutely than others I often see on the news or scrolling through my social media channels. I believe that also might be ethnocentric of me. I do worry about that.

I worry that I’ll become numb to violence and hatred and injustice in the world unless it affects me, unless it affects people who look like me. I worry that I’ll judge people who hold different beliefs because they and their doctrine threaten my security and peace. I worry that I’ll care more about my security and peace than I care even for the people who look like me.

One of the bloggers questioning the use of the French flag on social media asked an important question, though: “What else could you be doing—whether or not the news is filled with distressing headlines—that would be (more) meaningful, bring about tangible support, in your world right now? … Let those millions of lives lost in conflict … be the reason you do something different and really kind today, to share support and effect change for even a single person.”

She was calling us to move beyond the “quickie photo change or an easy hashtagged prayer,” which ironically, meant reaching out to the people closest to me, in the world I know best, even the people who look most like me.

It’s a mixed message at best, but it’s a mixed message we all have to live with. It’s a mixed message we don’t do well with most of the time.

“I just don’t understand the violence,” I said to my husband over the weekend, as if I have never had an angry thought or acted out of my own self-interest. See, the answer to the violence, hatred, and injustice is not to dehumanize the perpetrators. Rather, we all do well to lean in to our humanness, to value and love and get along with family members and neighbors, to deal with conflict on the microlevel. To treat well the people closest to me, especially the people closest to me, first.


I know I can’t stop there. Jesus said if we love only the people who love us, what have we really done? He also said that after loving God, the most important thing a person can do is love her neighbor as herself.

Who is my neighbor?

The world keeps going, violence begets violence, and there are new calls for scrutiny and security. We look at people who aren’t like us, and we pull those we love a little a closer. We slam doors and close blinds. And that’s not the answer either, though when the violence is so heinous we don’t know what is.

The world heaves and groans today, and I get up and work. I make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, while others eat a meal they don’t know will be their last. The dirty socks I found under the boys’ beds this weekend diminish in importance, as I pray for my neighbors, my very literal ones whom I haven’t yet met and the ones around the world whom I will never meet. And the enemies I want to hate … whom I do actually hate … I wonder how to love them. Is it even possible?

Lord, soften this heart, this one very human heart, so that even just one small crack in this giant fractured world will stop spreading.

What’s YOUR word of the week? Drop it into the comments section, or share it on this week’s Facebook post. If you post about your word on your blog, please slip the link into a comment below so I can stop by and join you.

Photo by Acid Pix, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License. Definitions of my word of the week are from Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online.