I want to be honest. Lately, I'm afraid. More than any other time in my life, I'm afraid.
A decade ago it wouldn't have crossed my mind to be uneasy going to a movie theater. Now, each time I enter one I have exits planned and I find myself (unfortunately) judging people out of fear.
With the recent attacks in Paris, I'm reminded that right before our Cancun trip this year, the incident on the beach that killed so many had me afraid even to go relax on the sand.
There is so much terror in our world, and I think if we're honest, regardless of our politics or faith system, there is an air of uncertainty that is hard to fully write off.
But, I'm smart enough to know that not every Christian is represented by Westboro, the KKK, or Nazi Germany. Those are all examples of hijacking a religion. It happens with gangs as well, who put on the cross bling and pray to the saints before shooting up a convenience store.
I know that just as those are not representative of my faith in Christ, so too terrorists are not representative of Islam as a whole. They've hijacked it, and use it for justification, but it is not the true Islamic faith they follow.
I'm afraid, but I don't want this fear to lead me to condemn or generalize a whole people or faith group; Christian, Muslim or otherwise.
I'm sure many Muslims feel just as frustrated by those killing in that religion's name as many Christians have felt throughout the ages being looped in with the KKK, or to a lesser degree Westboro. Those are simply the first examples to come to mind.
Regarding my fear, My Christian friends will say to trust God to take away the fear. And to a degree, for my own faith, that will help. But it does not fully address the issue. I think as a means of dealing with this crazy world, there are perhaps other, practical solutions.
I'm beginning to understand that living out the loving aspects of our faith systems (or simply our ethics as the case may be) is the only true way to bring people together, instead of tearing them apart.
On my team at work there are Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Jews, and I'm sure a whole host of non-categories, and each of us get along and care for each other as coworkers.
This then must be the model for the world. Our differences will always exist, but we cannot become afraid of those differences. We can embrace them and love, or at the very least be kind, to one another.
I may be afraid because of events in the world, but I'm learning that alleviating that fear will come, at least partially, from embracing and loving all those around me.
I can't stop a terror attack any more than I control whether or not I'll wake up each day. But I think I'm going to choose to go forward with a healthy respect for our differences. It may not be the way most would go, and I may not perfectly execute this path, but it's the only way I know right now to let the fear go, and embrace love.
*These are my personal reflections, but feel free to share or pass along if you want. Maybe it can help someone else feeling the same.*