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REVIEW: Nine Days



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Calloused

I read a piece of thought-provoking fiction tonight. It was approximately 32-pages long and entitled “There’s A Monster Under My Bed.”

The story is simple: Simon is certain there’s a monster under his bed. And, on my first read-through, that’s how it ended. He imagined multiple monsters scheming to kill him in his bedroom at night. Then, his brother joined him in his room and said he’d keep him safe from the monster.

And then it was over. With an illustration of two beady eyes just chilling under the child’s bed.

(Did I mention I read this to my three-year-old? At bedtime?)

He asked me to read it again, and this time, I realized I had accidentally skipped over one page that showed that it was actually just his brother hiding under his bed. Glad we went for the second read because it made the bedtime routine a bit more manageable.

But let’s focus on that first go-round, because—well, let’s be honest—it fits my post better.

As I was reading this book, I kept thinking, “Surely we’ll discover that it’s his dog under the bed. Maybe it’s his cat—which is terrifying, but not as bad as a monster. Surely it won’t end poorly.” But it did. It ended with no solution, with fear of the future, and without a happily-ever-after.

It feels a whole lot like our world today.

My heart shattered with the news of Alton Sterling’s death. The next day, my stomach dropped as I watched the horrifying ten-minute video, and I’ll never forget the images of Philando Castile’s bloody shirt and the sounds of the 4-year-old girl’s fearful but so very brave comments.

And then tragedy turned to senseless “revenge,” with the murder of five Dallas police officers. And then an extremist plowed into an innocent crowd, killing 84 and injuring more than 300. And then three more officers were killed in Baton Rouge. And then, and then, and then.

After each tragedy, I’ve wanted to share a bit of my heart. I’ve wanted to pour my words and my sadness and my hurts into a blog post, sharing not to impart wisdom but simply to say, “Everything is awful, and this world needs a Savior.” But, as I get ready to write, another breaking news alert pops up, crying out, “It Happened Again.”

It’s like the monster book. I keep hoping for an end—for a happily-ever-after, for a solution—but the next page and the next page continue to terrify.

So here I am, saying, “Everything is awful, and this world needs a Savior.” I say it with sadness, well aware that, even as my fingers furiously flitter over this keyboard, someone could be losing their life in a senseless tragedy. I simply can’t keep up.

In “There’s A Monster Under My Bed,” Simon first imagines one monster. Then, two monsters are fighting over who will eat him first. Next, three monsters, and then four, and then five. Each page is supposed to heighten the suspense, but by the four-monster-page, I lost interest. Four felt no more frightening than five. My anxiety was calloused by repetition. I forgot that five monsters is, in fact, worse than four monsters.

I was in a meeting last week. Before we got to our agenda, we were chatting current events (we’re writers—it’s what we do best). One colleague said, “Did you hear that 70 died in Nice?” I said, “Actually, I think it’s 84.”

Eighty-four is 14 more human beings than 70. Fourteen more husbands, wives, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, daughters, sons, brothers, and sisters. But I so casually added 14 to a death toll, thinking it no more horrific than 70.

One death is tragic. Two deaths are tragic. Three, four, four thousand deaths are tragic. But we’re quick to forget the one. When Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old son collapsed during a press conference, it shook me back to reality. Alton Sterling had a family. He had a past—he woke up the morning of his death, got dressed, maybe enjoyed a cup of coffee, thought thoughts, ate food. He was a person, and, because of the fallenness of our world, he is now gone.

Let us veer away from forgetting the “one” when we look at the masses. Tragedy surrounds, hope still feels far-fetched, but empathy is within reach.

And, as we turn page after page of our broken world, without an end in sight, let us breathe deeply the truths of Jesus: “Take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Holly Paulette

Holly is in love with good words and wants to share them with the world. She is the wife of a farmer, a diehard Hokie, self-proclaimed indoorsy type, and will never turn down a chocolate chip cookie. She's learning to find herself at the feet of the King of the Universe, who, for some crazy reason, knows her name.

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