I smooth the red ribbon with my fingers, stretching it out nine feet long. I measure it exactly, because I want this to be just right. And that’s when it occurs to me what I’m doing: I’m making a gift for a terrorist.
I stretch a second ribbon beside it, and then a third. Three crimson lines lay parallel across the table where we laugh over coffee and poppy-seed muffins on Sunday mornings. I’m making a present for a terrorist on the table where we potluck.
My mother-in-law, with scissors, asks if I could take the Sharpie marker and write three words on every gift: Dios es amor. God is love.
I write it three times. We will tell the person who kills and kidnaps and maims that God is love, God is love, God is love.
Somewhere deep inside me, I feel it. A part of me finds this revolting. It’s that prideful, ugly part of me that thinks that some people are beyond the reach of God’s grace. It’s the ugly part of me that finds another person’s sins deserving of God’s justice, yet I somehow stand in the safe shadow of His mercy.
Wouldn’t it be better to do mission work for Haiti babies, or the hungry homeless, or the ones who were maimed by the terrorists?
I recognize pride, a cousin to my self-righteousness.
And pride falls hard, pushed down by the humbling Truth of my salvation. And I hear my pride shatter on the inside, like a glass, and the shards cut. I bleed. For this is Truth: Once upon a Hill, God fashioned a gift for former terrorists like me.
I once was lost — an assassin in my flesh,
a terrorist by birth,
a guerrilla, deep in a jungle of sin,
a wretch, unworthy.
I am part Pilate and part Peter. I am the doubter, the mocker, the Pharisee.
And I am the criminal on a cross beside Jesus, deserving the punishment He got, but receiving the gift instead.
I cut more ribbons. I know who I was: a former terrorist. I know who I am: child of God, saved by grace.
My two girls — hair held back with leftover red ribbons — cut huge circles from cream-colored cloth.
Sandy sews three ribbons to a creamy circle, and now we’ve made one single parachute. This is our gift — parachutes to carry Bibles to terrorists. We will make 29 more. Joyce ties each parachute to a bag. Inside each bag: a Bible and a shortwave radio, pretuned to a Christian station. And then, our 30 parachutes will be dropped from a Cessna, over a guerrilla camp somewhere in Colombia.
This is not a conventional means of delivery. (Neither was crucifixion a conventional means of salvation.)
This is humbling work, the making of gifts for guerrillas. I run my fingers along crimson ribbons one last time, and I wonder if it will make any difference? These parachutes will land in a tree, or on the jungle floor. And we pray that someone will hear the music and pick up the bag and read the Bible inside. And I have no idea how or who or where. I don’t know much.
But we cut and sew anyway. None of us knows.
I feel small here, next to the ribbons and the unknowns. And maybe that is the very best place to be — feeling small and humbled by crimson ribbons of Calvary and a vast, immeasurable love that saved even me … a wretch like me.
Dios es amor.
Writing in community today with Ann Voskamp.
She asks us to consider the Practice of Humility.