This article was previously published in More-to-Life Magazine January 2019 World Section
As I enter this new year, I look back, hoping I can learn from the past to create a better future for all whom I love. Who doesn’t wish that? But how can we fix our world?
While visiting my neighbor Elizabeth one day, we both shook our heads over the state of the world. Given the power, I’m sure we’d make it a fairer place for all. Easy to say over coffee and chocolate cake. Elizabeth and I both know what it’s like to come from lands that have seen war and hostility. She grew up in post-WW2 Poland, and I was a child immigrant from Ireland. We both thank God though that we missed the worst of our respective country’s times of conflict, and that we now live in a nation that is wealthy and healthy compared to so many sad countries.
One of my many blessings is the financial means to travel. Looking back, I treasure last summer’s visit to the emerald isle where I was born and where most of my relatives reside. Ireland . . . that land of majestic coastlines, frothing surf that pounds rugged limestone cliffs and beaches of white sand, misty jade pastures dotted with sheep, a land of literature and music. The beautiful island of my birth is in its entirety only 300 miles long and 150 miles wide, and yet, my Ireland is actually two countries. The largest part belongs to the Republic of Ireland since the Partition in 1922, leaving the six counties in the north called Northern Ireland, which from that population’s democratic choice remains loyal to Great Britain.
From 1922, the border between my two Irelands has been a contentious one due to political and religious complexities until the Good Friday Agreement which was signed in 1998. Then we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. Peace. Ah, at last, something important was fixed.
But as I watch the evening news, about borders, walls and partitions, fear strikes a discordant note inside me. Is it all starting again? My neighbor Elizabeth is worried about Poland and other European countries that are seeing new hostilities arise from the flood of Middle Eastern refugees crossing their various borders. I tell her that my daughter-in-law comes from Venezuela which is currently being torn apart. There is of course the necessity of monitoring immigration to avoid worse tragedies, but I ask, where will these poor refugees go if we don’t open our lands?
And with the recent Brexit talks, how will that affect the border between my two Irelands? The Republic of Ireland will remain part of the European Union, while Northern Ireland as part of Great Britain will leave the EU. Will we see the Irish border, that currently allows the free transport of goods and services, close? Will we once again see toll booths, and soldiers manning a hard border with physical checks and guns? I can only pray that the politicians will look to our fractious past and take measures to see that history does not repeat itself. God forbid that hostilities should take place again in my homeland. Elizabeth and my daughter-in-law feel the same for Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America.
Walls, borders, partitions, as a historical fiction writer I find it exciting to research the past’s dark days of war, international suspense and catastrophes. But also, as an author, research opens my eyes to see that today’s events echo the past, where real people suffer and even die. What is happening today is real life, right now. And I can’t fix it.
Still, I hear a whisper of hope. That whisper starts as a question deep in my soul.
As I continue to look back and then forward to 2019, the talk of borders and walls makes me think even closer to home. Ok, someone hurt my feelings last year, so how big of a wall should I build between us? What barriers have I erected? What doors have I slammed shut. I’m urged to think, who have I wounded this past year, even unwittingly? Does God want me to build partitions between myself and my neighbors, or relatives to protect my feelings?
Starting out this new year, you too want to make this a better place for all you love. You wish you could fix the world. But you can’t. You can ask yourself though, if there are any hard borders in your life that shouldn’t be there. Ask yourself, how you can pull those barriers down with the jubilation that went into the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Because it’s all the little individual borders that add up to racism, hatred and political strife.
Remembering my recent visit to the emerald isle this past summer, I think of the peacefulness I experienced. My cousins and I hopped on the train in Northern Ireland and traveled south to Dublin in the Republic. We drank tea and soaked in the gorgeous Irish scenery along the way that had no hard border, no toll-booth checks, just an open door.
I think of several old paintings of a similar subject. The Lord Jesus Christ stands in the darkness of night. Warm inviting lamplight illuminates his face as he knocks on the door. He’s offering something, something that you and I have no power to offer. All we can do is open the door to him. To accept what he says.
In this complex world that is full of problems, I place my hope and faith in an invisible God who died on a cross to forgive us from our sins. This alone makes sense to me. This truth gives me the peace that I need to live in the here and now. In obedience to Christ, as I play my part in establishing peace on a seemingly small scale, he alone establishes the future.
Hugs and blessings, I hope you feel welcome, and thank you so much for dropping by.
For a little fun, turn up your volume to watch the video lineup of all my books so far, my fiction and my non-fiction.
I am currently writing Book 1 in a brand new series set in the land of my birth, Ireland. Again turn up your volume and enjoy this short video of my research trip there last summer.
Again, hugs and blessings, and may you feel the Lord's presence this day.