BringBackOurGirls (When the Nigerian Girls Feel Like Your Little Girl)

I’m procrastinating, so I tap the CNN app on my iPhone and I scroll through the newsfeed. I stop when I see the headline announcing a mass kidnapping of young Nigerian girls by a group of militants. Defenseless girls. Disappeared. Sold. Traded. Trafficked. Brutalized.

I stare at the headline.

My thumb hovers over it.

A feeling like mourning wells up within me.

I see an article just below it about a bug fix for the iPhone. My thumb twitches downward and hovers over the iPhone article. Meanwhile, I imagine my own little girl ripped from our home:

Her fingertips are just beyond mine as he pulls her out the door. I see her tear-streaked face. She looks at me frantically, expecting the protection I’ve always promised and her terror is mingled with confusion about why I’m not providing it. But they won’t let me go and the last thing I see as they pull her out of sight is the look in the eye of the man who is holding her. It’s a dead look. Whatever light was in him when he came into the world is gone. And now he is in charge of my daughter. In charge of taking her light away, too.

My thumb hovers.

A feeling like mourning wells up within me.

I feel the tortured days and sleepless nights in the years to follow. I feel the pain of not knowing where she is. I feel the unutterable anguish of wondering if she is being brutalized at this very moment. These Nigerian girls are not my daughter, but, in some way only my soul comprehends, they are my daughter. Each and every one of them.

My thumb descends, and I choose to read about the girls.

A feeling like mourning wells up within me.

The Gift of Grief?

Mourning. Grief. We don’t seek them out. But they do seek us out. The question is, will we allow ourselves to be found? And why would we?

We allow grief to find us because it is the purest, most unadulterated form of love.

Grief opens up a place in us where our priorities are straight and our focus is narrow. In the midst of grief, we let go of ourselves altogether, and we embrace our connection to everything else—to a vast universe, a massive planet, and a sprawling humanity. Grief slows us down and brings us home to who we really are beneath all our distractions.

Grief delivers us into the center of our love.

Grief returns us to our souls.

Grieving may be the most spiritual thing any of us will ever do.

A Larger Grief

The Nigerian news is not just a story of a remote cultural conflict—it is the story of countless, forgotten young girls throughout human history. It is a story about the grievous plight of women down through the centuries—half of humanity dominated by the physically stronger sex.

The story is changing. Finally. For the first time in the history of a species, brains are beginning to matter more than brawn. The playing field is leveling. Slowly. Which is why men are abducting young girls out of schools.

Do you feel the grief of it welling up within you? And do you feel the urge to reach out, to protect the unprotected, to rescue the disappeared, to remember the forgotten? Do you wonder if there is something you can do?

Because there is.

You can be you.

A Redemptive Grief

I almost didn’t write this post.

Because a little, shaming voice in my head kept saying, “What good will writing a blog post do? You’re just a writer. You’re not an activist or an affluent donor. You have nothing to offer here. Be quiet.”

Well, I call b.s.

A passion is defined as, “An extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” However, the word passion was originally derived from a Latin root meaning “to suffer.” What if our passion is the place our gifts meet our grief? And what if our grief is intended to guide our gifts?

What if the thing we’re passionate about doing is the thing we’re supposed to be doing about our suffering?

What if writers wrote about the things that grieve them? What if artists painted it and carved it and sculpted it? What if scrapbookers scrapbooked it and tweeters tweeted it and Facebookers posted their sorrow? What if speakers spoke about the lost and organizers organized rescues? What if everyone with a voice—whether it is quiet or loud—refused to remain silent about the thing that anguishes them?

The lost would be found—first in our hearts, and then in the world.

Today, a song was playing in our house and the chorus went like this: “If we all light up, we can scare away the dark.” Writing is my small way of lighting up. What is your way? And what would happen if you let it lead you home into the center of your passion, where your grief and gifts are mingled?

What would happen?

A feeling like morning would rise up within the human community.

If we all light up—in our own small way—we can scare away the dark.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.