Some of us are old enough to remember the meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. The consequences were appalling for people who lived in that area of the Ukraine. For the rest of us many of the fears of nuclear fall out never materialised, at least not with the kind of severity that some thought possible.
Nearly three decades on, the area around what was the nuclear power station still bears the scars of what happened all those years ago. The land will be contaminated for hundreds if not thousands of years to come.
Despite the obvious health risks of living in such an area, some people are returning to their former homes. One journalist covered the stories of a group of babushkas -Russian for “grandmother” or “old countrywoman” – who had returned to their villages.
These women were living what was more or less a normal life, if any life next to a ruined nuclear power plant could ever be described as normal.
In fact some research revealed that those who returned to their homes in the contaminated areas had greater life expectancy than those who were living in some of the settlements, created by the Soviet authorities in the wake of the disaster. One Russian journalist, who devoted his career to studying settler communities, even claimed that those who returned to their ancestral homes outlived those who remained in their new settlements by a decade!
Thankfully, most of us have never had to choose between living in a kind of refugee camp or returning to a home subjected to radiation. But we do sometimes have the choice of withdrawing from the world or engaging a sometimes toxic world, or at least what feels like a toxic world to us! Relationship fall out can contaminate the atmosphere of a home, a workplace or a church. “In this world you will have trouble,” said Jesus (John 16.33a). The atmosphere will never be just right. And sometimes it will be just wrong.
The good news is that with the help of the Holy Spirit we can thrive in what seems like a toxic wasteland. Jesus added to those words in John 16.33: “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
How can you make that work in your world?
Like the babushkas you need to have a conviction that you are meant to be where you are. God has placed you there and He will bring good out of it. Disengaging might seem like a safe option, but you may well lose your sense of direction and purpose.
Secondly, you need community. A sense of camaraderie, being in it together, often helps people face the toughest times and the most demanding challenges. Christians call it fellowship. Remember the Band of Brothers motto? “We stand alone together”.
Finally, you need faith. In fact, firstly, secondly…finally, you need faith!
One of the babushkas was called Galina. One of the things she did in her spare time was make images of Christ on cotton fabric.
Is Jesus there in your toxic world? You’d better believe it.