Rev. Aleese Kenitzer
Rev. Aleese Kenitzer
Aleese Kenitzer serves as the pastor of Shepherd of the Cross Church in Muscatine.

Muscatine Living

Watching news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve pinched myself numerous times wondering if I’m living in the 1930s. “Is this humanity?” I ask myself. I hope, and pray, that it is not. Yet, once again, our fellow brothers and sisters are being torn from their homes. They are having to make the decision to leave their country, or stay to fight and defend it. They are suffering and dying for no good reason.

My heart breaks for them. Here in the States, I wonder what I can do. “Pray,” say many, and yes, I pray, but as thousands of lives are overturned, I have the privilege to keeping on going as if nothing has changed.

That too makes my heart break. It makes my heart break that even in a globalized, connected world, I can be cut off from the pain of those who are caught in the grip of destruction. It makes my heart break to feel as though my hands are tied, without any true way to speak truth to power. Most of all, it makes my heart break to see human beings being taken advantage of, harmed, and killed.

So, what gives me hope? It’s that God’s heart is breaking too. I stumbled on the song, “Does Your Heart Break?” by the Brilliance a while back, and it’s only continued to arise in my heart. “The world is burning, as you’re standing by,” it says. “Are you watching as your children die? Does your heart break?”

It’s an honest question. One that demands an honest answer. I can’t know for certain if God’s heart breaks. But something in the core of my being tells me that God’s heart is breaking each and every time that the sanctity of life is taken away from humanity. Why do I believe such a thing? Because I believe God’s heart broke as his Son, Jesus Christ, suffered and died on the cross, and God’s heart continues to break as the life of any other human being is destroyed.

In all this, I wish I had answers. A way in which we, as people of faith, and even more broadly as people of a common humanity, could more clearly strive toward justice and peace in all the world, but I don’t have answers. Instead, I simply have a heart that is breaking, and with that broken heart, I uplift the people of Ukraine and Russia, asking God to do what I cannot.

So as we continue to watch reports of atrocities arising from thousands of miles away, perhaps the most faithful thing for us to do is to allow our hearts to break and to unite ourselves with a common humanity that uplifts the sanctity of life for all people. Doing so might not solve every problem on earth, immediately, but it’s honest. Perhaps that’s the best we can do, as we see each and every person – near and far – through the eyes of compassion.

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