How Do I Process this Evil?

Yesterday’s school shooting left me feeling like a stuck record – my mind unable to move forward or comprehend the screeching static. I process better when I write. I don’t know where this post will go, exactly. I do know that I’ll ramble, but I need to define this pain and evil somehow; to see its shape. You can’t throw a rock at a giant if you don’t know where he’s standing.

I believe in a good God. Despite the crushing weight of pain and injustice under which we all live, many people choose to do good. Mostly, these small acts seem futile, inconsequential – and yet, we do them. That we have the energy and hope to forge ahead at all is incredible, frankly. Our resilience is awesome. And also not enough. We are called to do more and be greater not through the strength of our own wills, but through that divine strength and power that breathed life into being. Some of us are better than others at letting go the steering wheel and inviting God’s direction. I often fall into the “others” category.

I cannot and would never presume to speak to the feelings of those who have been more directly affected by an act of violence than I have but while I feel lost and sad after this shooting, I don’t feel anger. Anger might be an appropriate response, but personally I am just… terribly confused. We seem to have flipped a frightening switch in the last 20 years. What happened? It feels very specific and yet, for all the finger pointing at different causes, I can’t help but think we’re missing something fundamental.

My mind inevitably turns toward the perpetrators of these acts. I believe deeply in personal responsibility, but I find it difficult to blame an individual whose mind or spirit is broken. I simply can’t know their level of capacity. It’s a problem. If they can’t, in fact, be held responsible, then who can? How do you fight something so abstract, so elusive and yet so pervasive?

We yearn for certainty, resolution, answers. They don’t seem forthcoming. And as unsatisfactory as it may seem, perhaps we are simply called to hold ourselves to higher standards of love in all areas of our lives. Maybe that giant is invisible, but every time we respond to evil with love, we deal him a blow. Wherever the world is headed, I pray that we might have the strength to be vulnerable and the courage to love fiercely.

2 Timothy 1:7

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Luke 12:48

“But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”


Fumbled… and Humbled

This morning at church I volunteered to do the weekly prayer, lifting up the joys and concerns of the congregation. I wanted to share a reflection on Romans 15:13 during this prayer, but I wasn’t terribly prepared and fumbled through embarrassingly when I couldn’t read my own scribbles. The verse reads:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

When I read this a few weeks ago, I found myself trying to understand what it means to “…abound in hope.” People are always hoping for things. And often that hope, our anticipation and preparation for something, is a big part of what makes it exciting and fun. So we should be taking incredible joy from anticipating and preparing for our ultimate fulfillment in God.

After failing to deliver this little reflection, I sat back down and felt so disproportionately embarrassed that I could hardly pay attention to the rest of the service. I fidgeted and felt self-conscious. I knew it was ridiculous. It was done, and really no big deal at all, but I couldn’t seem to control my (very self-involved) response. Ironic, since the sermon today was about listening for God and making him your focus. 🙂

I hope (there’s that word again) that I can eventually overcome such feelings, but if nothing else, those kinds of mistakes are humbling. They make you less judgmental and generally kinder. I was a terribly critical kid. If I’m being honest, I was downright derisive sometimes. I’ve grown out of that, but I think we all still need the occasional reminder to consider the feelings of the people upon whom we animadvert. (Hah! Okay, I confess, I used the thesaurus for that word. But I’ve never heard it before and really wanted to use it! Means “to comment unfavorably or critically.” :))

Hope everyone has a great day!