I stood in silence screaming at the image facing me. Disgust pushed me to leave. Anger anchored me to stay. I forced myself to stand there and deal with every emotion that crashed against my soul. I fixated on the soldier with gun trained feet from the head of a defenseless mother desperately shielding her child from the murder that was seconds away. Profanity spewed from my mind as I witnessed the depths of evil and cowardice. I found it easier to linger in my hate of the soldier rather than convince my eyes to digest the image of a desperate mother, knowing she was about to be dealt a crushing blow. “God, no!” I pleaded with all my heart. But I was too late.
Nearly 70 years too late.
I thought going to the Yad Vesham Holocaust Remembrance Museum in Jerusalem sounded like a good idea. I knew enough about the atrocities perpetrated against Jews by Germans in collaboration with many other guilty nations that I felt reasonably sure I wouldn’t be introduced to much new. What I learned is that I had an extremely superficial understanding of the cruelty and suffering; the hate and helplessness; the evil and desperation.
I froze when I walked into the room where the picture hung. It seemed so….real; like I was there. I wanted to yell, “Run!”; or “Stop!”; or “No!” I wanted to have a gun aimed squarely at that cowardly bastard and blow his head off before he could do what history records he did. How can someone’s soul be so shriveled – so dead – that it would allow someone to coldly kill a helpless mother and her child?
“Dear God, how could this have happened?” I asked over and over as I roamed – sometimes in shock – as image after image presented itself and begged from me an answer to the same question: “How could the world have allowed this to happen?” I wanted to deny the truth of what I saw yet the evidence forced my admission of it. It was real. And it did happen. And the world was slow to respond throughout World War II and when it did it acted surprised by what it found. Maybe it is better to describe it as shocked by what it found since reality proved much more horrific than nearly five years of previous eyewitness testimony indicated. All the world bears the shame of that episode of history.
And what of the world today? Not much has changed. We’ve stood by and watched Cambodians suffer similar genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, or Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu Rwandans at the hands of militant Hutus, or the innocent of Darfur at the hands of extremists.
The Bible asks “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Standing looking at the image of a cowardly soldier murdering a helpless mother confirms the depths of our depravity and presents us with the reality of who we are.
God’s response to the question is in the next verse: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
What are the fruits of my deeds? What are the fruits of your deeds? Will we be guilty of the deceit in our own hearts? Will we be guilty of waiting until it is too late before we deal with it?