Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

13 years ago today, I was running late.  I didn’t have time to turn on the TV in my dorm room and check the news.  I barely had time to take a shower, throw my hair up in a pony tail, and make it to my 9:00 class—Modern Middle Eastern History.  I didn’t see the towers fall live, but on replay, after class, sitting in the Student Union of Oklahoma State University—the very same Student Union that I breeze through most mornings these days to get coffee or a quick snack before heading to my office or to class.  I didn’t fully understand 13 years ago today as a sophomore in college how important the events of that day would be in the plotting the course of my life.

I had only just begun to immerse myself in the study of the Middle East, an infuriating, confusing, interesting place.  But even then, I knew that the hatred, the vile, ignorant words being hurled at all Muslims as though they were somehow all Osama bin Laden were wrong.  One day, a few weeks after 9/11, I was venting to my father about the dumb, misinformed things that come out of people’s mouths regarding Islam and Muslims.  He reminded me that as one who studies the region, as one who knows more than the talking heads and overnight “experts” on Islam, I have a responsibility to educate and inform—objectively, in a way that’s easy to understand.

I often talk to my students about “calling.”  I tell them that a calling is something you do because you simply can’t picture yourself doing anything else.  Education is my calling.  More specifically, educating people about Islam and the Middle East and ISIS and al Qaeda and all the rest is my calling.  Even so, there are challenges.  Oklahoma lawmakers who make ignorant and incendiary comments frustrate me.  Even still, I try to respond in gracious, if stern, ways.  Knowing full well that Mark Twain’s counsel is likely correct (“Never argue with an idiot.  He’ll drag you down to his level, then beat you with experience.”), I do my best to make people understand that ISIS and al Qaeda aren’t Muslim.  They are, in fact, the opposite of everything they claim to espouse.

My reasons for doing this are rooted in my faith.  At the war memorial in Cameron Park in Waco is a giant piece of granite with the prayer often erroneously attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
When I needed a break from thinking about my dissertation, I would often take my bike to Cameron Park and go for a ride.  I would stop at the war memorial and read that prayer.  “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace….”  Those words often echo in my head; they inform much of my scholarly work.  How can I shine a light in the dark places?  How can I educate people on the dangers of condemning the whole for the actions of a small part?  How can I encourage others to do the same?

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace….”
Even as those who claim to follow You say things that are anything but peaceful.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace….”
Even when I don’t want to peacefully respond to ignorance.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace….”
Because I have a captive audience in the classroom and knowledge to impart.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace….”
As I forge partnerships with people across the faith spectrum to inform, educate, and advocate.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace….”
To remind others that religion isn’t bad; people are bad, and bad people sometimes do evil things in the name of religion.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.”

1 comment:

BarbCarol said...

Excellent blog. I really enjoy your commentaries. Hope to read them often.