I don’t know what to do, but something has to change. I sit in a coffee shop in Westminster, CO hoping that the folks sitting around me don’t see that I’m struggling to keep the tears from rolling down my face.
It’s my off block as I sub today at a local public school. I do this from time to time to help pay the bills, and I can’t escape the news from yesterday that the 18th school shooting THIS YEAR occurred in which a young man took the lives of 17 innocent souls. That’s not school year, that’s CALENDAR YEAR. Think about that, most schools have only had 26 or so school days this year, and there have been 18 shootings!
I’m not writing to be political, although I’m sure some will read this and make political comments. I believe in the 2nd Amendment, but I also think the phrase “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is one of the biggest copout statements of all time. The truth is people WITH GUNS kill people.
This is not a “Get rid of the guns” column. I don’t know what this is. I’m just hurt, pissed off, and confused, and I know many of you are also. Moments like these reveal to us how broken and messed up this world really is.
Over the years I’ve gotten tired of hearing people say they are praying for victims of these attacks, yet I also know there’s nothing more powerful we can do than fall on our knees before our creator God. Deep down, I know He is hurting over this even more than the parents and spouses that were needlessly shot down by that ass clown yesterday.
Scripture says over and over again that we should “Fear not,” but the truth is I find myself struggling with fear this morning. Fear that 2 my 3 kids, who worked their tails off until midnight last night on their science fair projects, are daily in more danger than they should be. Fear that my school counselor wife may be part of expelling a disgruntled student and that he or she will one day return to take revenge. Fear that next time I sub and the fire alarm goes off that we may be walking blindly into a trap.
Yes, I know that true safety is only an illusion, and I know that security should ONLY come from Christ. But before you get all Christianese on me, make sure your heartbeat won’t rise a bit when a gun is pointed in your face. Make sure the thought of your kids getting gunned down by someone doesn’t stir some negative emotions in you.
The reality is, these types of events stir emotions of fear, confusion, and outrage, and each and every person will have a different cocktail of these emotions in different amounts and based on different things. These emotions are real, and legit, even if they can often be irrational and technically unspiritual.
I said before I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what this article is really about. Well, let me suggest two things related to how we as church leaders and Jesus followers should respond:
1. Don’t minimize people’s emotions. Whether the emotions of fear, confusion, and outrage are spiritual or not, making people feel like a bad person for having them doesn’t help, and it actually hurts.
It’s similar to me listening to my daughter botch up Hot Cross Buns on her flute and telling her that my sage advice for her is to be a better flute player. That doesn’t help at all. It doesn’t inspire her to keep growing, and it gives her nothing practical to build upon.
Christ followers and the church should be safe for people to be honest with these complex emotions. Many may want to cry, scream some F-bombs, and even express hatred toward other people and possibly even God.
GOOD! LET THEM!!
When David expressed honestly to God in Psalm 69:20 that he was “in despair,” it was because of the hurt and fear he felt about the world around him and what was happening in his life. The “Man after God’s own heart” was in despair, and wanted punishment on those who had wronged him.
Why is it ok for David (and us) to honestly feel this way? Because when we get raw in our darkest moments, then the Spirit can come and lift us out of the darkness into the light. God didn’t tell David he was overreacting, had the wrong politics, or too little faith. God listened and healed his soul so that David could later say with hope and confidence in verse 35 that “God will save Jerusalem.”
You may be reading this and are offended that I expressed a political viewpoint that may be different than yours. Maybe you think it’s unChristian that I said I’m “pissed off” and called yesterday’s shooter an “ass clown.” If that’s how you feel, then it’s time to check your own heart. If you’re more concerned about my political opinion or how I expressed myself than the pain and other emotions that drive those thoughts, then you’re in the wrong business. I can promise you when I was praying earlier and used words much worse than these, God was not offended. I received no condemnation, but instead acceptance and peace that He has not abandoned us in this difficult time.
If churches are going to be relevant in people’s lives then they have to be willing to live in the messy, and not just so you can tell someone they should go get a broom.
2. The second thing I would say this article is about is to encourage us as leaders and churches to step up to the bold call that we have been given. In these times a lot of people will say a lot of things about what politicians, parents, law enforcement, and society should do to fix these type of issues. Some of these suggested actions may need to be considered and enacted, but no matter how good a suggestion, they will only accomplish so much.
Here’s my question: What is the hope for this world? If you’re a Christ follower, no doubt, you immediately said “Jesus.” Your next thought may have something to do with the “Local Church.” No matter where you are on the political or theological spectrum you probably didn’t say that new laws are our hope, and I pray that you didn’t think that politicians are.
Deep down we know the chaos of this world is so evil and complex that it will only come through Jesus. But here’s the deal, when you decided to follow Jesus, you chose to be his hands and feet, and when you decided to be a leader in his Church you took on the responsibility to lead others to be his hands and feet. That means that WE are his agents of hope in this word. God typically uses US in the answer to other’s prayers.
I can’t say with all authority what that exactly means where you live, lead, and serve, but I can tell you without hesitation, that if you urgently seek God’s face in this he won’t be silent. I’m not simply talking about a response to yesterday’s events. I’m talking about URGENTLY responding to the hopelessness and pain that most of the people in your neighborhood and around the world feel in their lives.
The other day I was praying about something pretty personal to my family and I said, “God, I need you to show up on this.” His response is one I hope I never fully recover from. He answered, “I’m always here. Now, it’s time for you to show up.”
BOOM! Two weeks removed from that prayer I still can’t write the words without crying. Yes, it was good for me to real and brutally honest with God, but in that honesty, he was brutally honest with me. I haven’t shown up and had the urgency of someone at war like he’s called me to. He’s never been absent in my life, and he’s not absent now in the chaos of this world. But we have to URGENTLY show up and step up.
Today, be brutally honest with God and let him be brutally honest with you. It’s ok to sit for a bit in that pain, confusion, and outrage. It’s also ok to be present for someone else that needs to sit in that dark place. It may hurt, but it also heals and equips us for what he has absolutely called all of us to do: In his name be URGENTLY AT WAR against the principalities and powers of this world.
I get it, this post is kinda all over the place, and it REALLY long. All I can say is my heart is heavy, and maybe yours is too. I felt like I needed to share. Maybe it just helped me, but I pray it helped you as well. Let’s all pray for one another, then let’s get up and urgently be agents of hope in this world.