August 23, 2021 | Stories by Linda Opp
I've told this story before, but the daily bombardment of bad news from across the globe has reminded me of it.
I grew up in the farmhouse my great-grandfather built. It featured a dirt basement, illuminated by one lonely, naked light bulb, and was accessed by a steep, narrow wooden staircase off the kitchen. The coal furnace lived in the basement, along with jars and jars of home-canned food– green beans, tomatoes, peaches, pickles, and even chicken.
When I was five, my mother went to the hospital to give birth to my third brother. The arrangement was that my Grandma Paulina would come to stay with us while she was gone, which back then was at least a week. In the days before she went into labor, my mother gave me instructions on what to do in an emergency if my farmer dad wasn't in the house when one occurred.
The emergency would be if Grandma fell down the basement stairs. Because she was kind of old.
Grandma would certainly have to go up and down those sinister stairs while she was there. So in case she fell, I was supposed to call the neighbor, Erna, who lived two miles down the road. Mom drilled me a few times, until she was satisfied I could handle things. Then she went off to give birth, and left me in charge of Grandma.
When Grandma arrived, she was her usual bustling, efficient self, cooking, cleaning, and making us behave. I observed her carefully, waiting for the moment she opened the basement door to go down those dangerous steps. And then, for reasons known only to a five-year-old, I let her know she was being watched. “I'm supposed to call Erna if you fall down the stairs.”
Grandma gave me a withering look, which wasn't easy, because she was extremely kind and soft-spoken. She drew herself up to her full five-foot height, and with fire in her eyes said, “Well, I didn't come here to fall down the stairs.”
Indeed. That's the kind of woman she was, you see. Falling down the stairs wasn't an option. There was a job to do, and she did it. She lived her whole life with that grit and determination. Her accomplishments included raising seven children while doing all the hard work of a farmer's wife, the ability to butcher thirty chickens before lunch, and being a fabulous cook. She also made quilts, piles of them, and made sure that every one of her twenty-eight grandchildren received one. Falling down a basement staircase was the least of her worries.
The horrifying and frightening news of the world in these last weeks, on top of an endless pandemic, make us feel like we're collectively falling down a sinister set of stairs. And those in the thick of the horror actually are. Everything is a mess.
We ask legitimate questions, all the questions about suffering and mayhem that humans have always asked. What is God doing? Is he paying attention? How can he let evil go unchecked? If we're honest, we'll admit that some of those questions arise out of our desire to be safe and comfortable.
We need reminding that God has a plan, and it can't be thwarted. His end game is, and has always been, for the greatest number of people possible to come to know him. The Church's mandate to make disciples in every nation remains unfinished.
Most of the thirty-eight million Afghanis have not yet heard the gospel. We don't know what God is doing behind the scenes, and we don't know how he'll use this crisis to grow the Afghan church, which is the second-fastest growing Christian movement in the world. Many Afghan Christians believe a great movement of salvation will come out of this tragedy.
So we must pray, and not despair. Pray for Afghani Christians who are in danger. Pray for Afghanis to hear and respond to the gospel. Pray for Jesus to reveal himself in dreams and visions to Taliban leaders.
God has a plan. He won't fall down the stairs. It's not an option.