We started a new game in the car on the way to school this week. Guess the pollution level. My daughter wins more than I do. I refrain from guessing until we round the corner that spits us out on the highway. My guess always depends on how well I can see the large mountain. Some days I can’t see it at all. Like today. On a clear day a tall hill rises in the distance with a pagoda at the top. It stands a quarter mile away.
I knew when I woke up and descended the stairs that the level bumped up from yellow, orange, to red, and most likely, to deep maroon. It smelled like someone lit a campfire outside our front door. The pollution app confirmed my suspicions. It is a deep maroon day. Bad. I feel angry and exasperated. Why, Lord? Why do people still burn their fields? Why do factories belch out particulate matter? Why is the coal burned in its dirtiest state? I rail in my mind against the injustices that I live in, but I choose to live here…in all these injustices. How can I complain? I don’t know but I find my way to complaining pretty fast!
Then, I ponder sending my kids to school. Will it help to keep them at home? Inside? Not much. The lack of seals anywhere at all means the pollution drifts into our home and we do not own an air filter. Air filters help a little, I’m sure, but one doctor told me it’s about as effective as putting an air purifier outside. I kept my one thousand dollars. I decided to send the kids to school but request no outside playground time for them.
I think of my friend whose child is recovering from a bout of pneumonia. How will he deal with this? I heard my downstairs neighbor coughing continuously last night and then again this morning. How will he deal with this? How does anyone deal with the choking smoke? Do I take him an emergency inhaler and teach him to use it?
My choices spread before me. Ignore it hoping I can push down all the feelings of anger and frustration. Hmmm not easy. Or, I can scramble all the resources I have to lessen the impact knowing the limited chance of success. At some point I must open my door for something.
My other choice is to escape. We can drive to the airport and pass over a slim plastic card and our little blue booklets and leave. Just get on a plane and fly away. I like that choice when I only think of myself. But when I think of my friends who have no slim plastic card or little blue booklet with an eagle on the front, my face sobers up a little. It’s not fair. It feels criminal to use my freedom and privilege that came merely through birth to escape what others cannot.
The choice I don’t want to make is to accept it and let all the mix of emotions play out while I live my life one step at a time in the midst of the smog. It drives me to my knees. I pray for a strong wind. I confess my anger and sin for dropping a cuss bomb at a reckless driver. Thankfully the car was empty but still…but still, that is what dwells in my heart.
Actually, this is not a bad place to sit. I realize my dependency on the Lord for my very life and the lives of my children and my spouse and my friends. I face my sinful response to a sinful world. My deep longings for a world without sin, pollution, sickness, death, and injustice rise up and I long for the Day of the Lord.
The apostle Paul comes to mind. He possessed the ancient version of a blue passport with an eagle on it, Roman citizenship. And, he used it when it prolonged his life. I wonder what he felt when he claimed all the benefits of citizenship to appeal to Caesar. Did he struggle with his privilege?
I bet my Bible will crack open to that theme today at some point. I want to dig a little deeper.
What trials drive you to the Word today?