Several hours ago , the Malaysian Prime Minister announced that MH370 was presumed lost in the South Indian Ocean. I don’t know how often the US media has covered the story, but it has been impossible to turn on the television and not hear about the search within 10 minutes throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and India. Caleb and I have had discussions with fellow travelers about it, oftentimes admitting the tragedy felt too close for comfort. Many of us have repeatedly traveled through the Kuala Lumpur airport as it is a hub for several of the regional airlines. As the days turned into a week turned into two, it became increasingly impossible to imagine a scenario that did not end in tragedy. And as a traveler who is averaging several flights a month that was unsettling.
Several weeks prior to the disappearance of MH370, there was a terrorist attack at a Chinese train station in Kunming killing 33 people. We woke up on the morning of March 2 to the news, and I lost my appetite as I thought about our own train journey the next day.
When we decided to go on this crazy adventure, I did so pushing past my fear. I had long wanted to spend extensive time traveling, but always had an excuse. It wasn’t a good time. I didn’t have enough money. While these were often legitimate, I neglected the biggest reason. I was scared.
During the past three months, I have been pushed way out of my western comfort zone. I have ordered food by pointing to Chinese characters and hoping for the best. I have figured out what to do when you need to book a flight due to a canceled reservation and you have issues with accessing your funds. I have cried in a KFC (admittedly not my proudest moment), because I couldn’t even accurately communicate what I wanted to eat at an American restaurant with English speaking employees. I have ridden a 14 hour bus all through Cambodia. I have endured a stomach bug while flying three times in three days. I have laughed at myself when I have missed it culturally and smiled when locals have graciously corrected me. Most importantly, I have been reminded once again of my fragility. I am reminded of my lack of control, reminded part of what it means to be human.
I just finished “When Helping Hurts” by Steve Corbett and I was struck by this quote when pondering my fear over the unknown and my limited understanding regarding unexplained tragedy:
“It is important to remember that neither humans nor the systems they create are as bad as they could possibly be. Christ continues to ‘hold all things together’ and to ‘sustain all things by his powerful word’. Hence, while the good creation- including individuals and the systems they create- is deeply distorted, it retains some of its inherent goodness. Flowers are still pretty. A baby’s smile brings joy to all who see it. People are often kind to one another.”
Whether we are watching a tragedy from afar or are pushing through personal grief that we didn’t ask for nor think will ever end, it is so good for our souls to remember that there is a reality that we do not understand. In a grand mysterious way, Christ is holding all things together. We still have doubts, fears, anxieties, anger- welcome to humanity. It is messy and confusing and tragic and beautiful and through it all Christ sustains.