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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.”

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Joshua

Today I feel a strong and persistent call to write about my big brother, Joshua. What limited knowledge I have of him comes primarily from early childhood memories, so much of this will be written in the past-tense. My parents tell me he isn’t doing well. He may rally, but he may not. The thought that he might not be long for this world made me surprisingly emotional. I know that sounds… hardened, but it isn’t; perhaps pragmatic. Josh is blind, doesn’t speak, is self-abusive and deeply autistic. It is very difficult to comfort him, to treat his pain. I believe that when he goes home, it will be incredibly joyful for him. But I will mourn his loss. His contribution to my life has been worth more than I can say, but I’ll try anyway.

Josh helped teach me about compassion. It would be easy to pity him. My parents had compassion for him. In my mind there is a vital difference. Pity has no hands or feet. It is counterproductive, even demeaning; not that I’m immune. I pity people sometimes. It is a helpless feeling. Compassion recognizes humanity. It inspires us to show humanity. Of course my folks saw his limitations, but they saw his personality and capacities, too. They loved and included him and taught us to do the same.

More importantly, Joshua taught me about the value of people. Though he could not speak to me, see me, respond in typical ways; though his behaviors were odd and never socially acceptable, I felt his soul. I know that sounds terribly melodramatic, but truly – he had gentleness. I always thought he was special. I love him.

Josh also reminds me that death need not be a fearful thing. He may feel miserable and unhappy here; it’s easy to look at him and feel that something better awaits, but sometimes I forget that I am, more or less, in the same position. We all are. While our lives here can be very precious and beautiful to us, fear, confusion, misery and brokenness are also parts of our realities. I can’t imagine much greater contrast than that between those feelings and pure, uninhibited joy and peace.

And so I thank God for my brother. Thank you for reading about someone who is probably a stranger to you. If you feel so moved, prayers for his peace and comfort would be wonderful.