The decorations and other vestiges of the Christmas season are boxed up and stored away. Next comes perhaps my favorite month of the year – January. I can cease being a slave to the demanding December “to do” lists. The pace slows and order is restored to my life.
As February and Lent approach, I often am led to turn my focus to the Deuteronomy 30:15-20 admonition to “choose life.” The Lenten holy season always seems the right time to think about the priorities of my life. This year on February 12 I read the Deuteronomy scriptures and happened to follow that reading with one from the front page of the Wall Street Journal. I was drawn to an article about Kayla Jean Mueller, who had been held by the Islamic State for 18 months and, sadly, had been confirmed dead Tuesday, Feb. 10.
To quote the article, “Ms. Mueller, who was 26 years old, traveled to the Turkey-Syria border region in December, 2012, to work with aid organizations . . . . . . to help refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war. She was kidnapped in Aleppo in August 2013.
“Dedicated to service work, she previously spent time volunteering in India, Israel and the Palestinian territories before traveling to the border region.”
During Kayla’s imprisonment she tried to teach the guards crafts. Kayla and the other captives told each other stories and taught each other songs. President Obama, offering condolences to the Mueller family, said, “Kayla represents what is best about America.”
Also during her captivity, Kayla wrote a letter to her family, squeezing on to a single page of paper dozens of lines of script. She relied on other captives to deliver the letter to her family when they were freed. This excerpt drew my attention because it exemplifies our Deuteronomy instruction to “choose life.” As I read her words, I thought it could have been an epistle written by St. Paul.
“The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope for our reunion is the source of my strength. Please be patient, give your pain to God. I know you would want me to remain strong. That is exactly what I am doing. Do not fear for me, continue to pray as will I that by God’s will we will be together soon.
All my everything,
Kayla’s words are profoundly moving. Though most of what I know about her I learned in that short news article, her life seems to model St. Paul’s letter to the Philippines 2:14-15 “ . . . . . . work out your salvation . . . . so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”
I plan to spend some time during this Lenten season looking at the stars and reflecting on the noble choices of this courageous young woman