The images out of Iraq paint a grisly picture. Exploding bombs. Insurgency. A "kill or be killed" atmosphere. As I read the accounts of yet another battle, the grim realities of war sink in a little deeper. A situation that once just elicited feelings of frustration and sadness now seems as though it's really gotten under my skin.
I ask myself, What will it take to stop the fighting? How can I help?
It occurs to me that I've begun accepting the bullets and bombs as inevitable. My vision of Iraq is one of a nation full of unrest and untamed anger. Of factions and fighting and retaliatory tendencies.
How ironic, I think, given my view of God. The Supreme Being I know to be omnipotent and All and present everywhere is not a God of wrath who pits His children against one another. In His great, all-powerful love and oneness He unifies, harmonizes. He brings out beauty and goodness in His creation, expresses Himself through charity and sister/brotherliness. We catch glimpses of who God is and what He's doing in peace agreements and laying down of arms, in forgiveness granted and common ground found.
I want to believe that this is possible for Iraq, so I pray to see that no region or realm could ever be beyond the reach of divine Love.
As I pray, I hear this message from God: "In each of My children, there is an Abigail."
In each man and woman, boy and girl, regardless of race or religion, culture or creed, I can see an Abigail.
As the Bible story goes, Abigail prevented war once. When her churlish husband, Nabal, refused to share his food and land with David, David got mad. Perhaps he was justified in his anger. Either way, his response was definitive. An enraged David marched off with hundreds of armed soldiers to meet the admittedly rude and selfish Nabal. Hundreds of armed soldiers. To say things didn't look good for Nabal would be, well, an understatement.
Meanwhile, several of Nabal's servants had warned Abigail of the confrontation between Nabal and David's messengers. The messengers had been kind to them, they told her, and the two camps had gotten along well. But then Nabal insulted David's men, and now they were all going to suffer the consequences.
Abigail spent no time justifying her husband's actions, or fretting over them. Instead, she sprang into action, gathering loaves of bread and bottles of wine, sheep and raisins and cakes of figs. Then, she rode out to meet David.
A bribe? Hardly. A God-motivated offering of peace and love? Most definitely. And accompanying her gifts was the prayer she offered - a prayer for David's prosperity and well-being. And the counsel that killing Nabal would not be in David's best interests.
It was a move that stopped David in his tracks. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me:" he told her, "And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand" (I Sam. 25:32, 33). Nabal and his household were spared.
Abigail's means of defense resonates as I think about her story now. In the middle of a "kill or be killed" situation, she found that divine direction proved effective, potent. Not only were lives saved, but her actions prevented David from resorting to violence.
As I see it, Abigail appealed to David's better nature. In her humility, she drew out his humility. In her innocence and purity, she brought out his. She gave some and he gave some. And they both responded to God.
I think I understand why God's message to me was to see the Abigail in everyone involved in this conflict in Iraq. Because Abigail-like qualities build bridges instead of burning them. They paint situations with hues of compassion and mutual understanding. They reconcile, redeem, restore, and revise. They show divine Love at work. They heal.
As I consider Iraq now, I cling to the possibility - or rather the reality - that what divine Love is doing is bigger and more promising and more powerful than that ongoing slide show of violence. God's gift to Iraq, and to our world, is the Abigail that's drawn to Love and responds to it. Because she knows it's never too late to offer a blessing - and to receive one in return.