I have stood in many a line for many a thing. The allure of free Chick-fil-A sandwiches has had me in a long, hot, sweaty line dressed as a cow with my little calves countless times. I once wiped my eyes, grabbed my coffee and posted up at the local public pool at 6 am to get free swim lessons for my water-phobic children. I am no stranger to the strange compulsions of a love of a mother.
Yet, the recent phenomena of out-of-control queues for the the “Pay Your Age” Build-A-Bear promotion has me saddened and concerned.
On the one hand, as a mother, I understand deeply the desire to work hard to secure and procure good things for our offspring. The love of a parent for a child is a near-miraculous thing. Yet, on the other hand, I see a sad story in the Build-A-Bear conundrum. We find it acceptable and expected to see lines wrap around entire malls for toys, yet seem to have a hard time expecting, accepting and empathizing with families queuing up on our border in attempts to leave dangerous situations and life-crippling poverty.
I am quick to recognize that immigration policy is a complex subject, so I will avoid any discussion of what we should do as a nation, as that is not my area of expertise; however, I am concerned about our hearts and our posture towards those queues no matter what the policy.
We are quick to assimilate long lines for toys into our view of reality while rejecting and ignoring the longer queues at our borders.
I have thought and pondered long on my own heart’s desire to focus on my own possessions and places while conveniently tuning down (or turning off) those which make me face uncomfortable realities. I believe we are afraid to face the refugee situation because we are afraid to face our own fears.
In our country, as a whole (as compared to most other nations) we are able to believe in the facade of control, stability and longevity. As such, refugees make us face our deepest fears that life on this earth is indeed temporary, that, despite the fact that we live in secure homes on mostly ordered streets, any neighborhood on this globe is really only a tent city, a temporary home.
Our country has made its name and built its history on an independent spirit. My own soul desperately wants to self-sufficient, even as one who knows that the gospel primarily means a delightful utter dependence upon God. To pay attention to refugee populations who have become, often through no fault of their own, utterly dependent on hand outs and aid is to be reminded of how deeply dependent each of us are to others for our well being. After all, we breath borrowed, walk on legs we did not create and eat food we did not grow.
The sad reality is that in rejecting to at least deeply consider the plight of refugees we are rejecting a remedy.
What refugees offer to our nation, in addition to countless other gifts of culture and perspective, is remedy in the form of a searing reminder. A reminder that this earth is indeed only a vestibule, a hallway into an eternal life. That, especially as believers, we are called to live as those in tent-cities, living lightly, ready to move at any moment, utterly dependent upon our God for life and breath and being.
While we offer stability and security and the chance to begin life again for refugees, they bring something we desperately need but equally desperately seek to avoid: a reality check.
I fear that in refusing to engage in the refugee situation, we are refusing a great and timely gift, one that would benefit our neighborhoods, our Churches and our souls.
For in the recognition in our ultimate lack of control, our desperate dependence upon God for all things, and our deepest desire for a forever home, a city without walls whose builder and architect is God, we are able to live in this earthly vestibule in a way that brings the most joy, the greatest hope and the longest security.
I, for one, need these reminders daily, as, in my flesh and fear, I am tempted to become accustomed to toy lines and accusatory to border lines. By the grace of God, may it not be so!