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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Leaning In

The Horror

More terrible news yesterday. Gun violence in yet another public arena. This time, brutality on the West Coast, ending with loss of lives and shattered peace of mind for those who survived.

This one strikes close to home. My sister lives in California and I work with the special needs population, which was victimized by this unspeakable crime. Not that my personal connection to this atrocity should matter. The real heartache is, I ache because these stories are becoming so commonplace that it's hard to make myself ache over them anymore.

What to do? I ask in dismay. Wanton mass murder seems the order of the day: Oklahoma City, Columbine, Nickel Mines, Newtown, Charleston, Colorado Springs, etc., etc., etc. Notice, I deliberately didn't mention the Twin Towers and the Boston bombing. Why? Because at least the scoundrels who perpetrated those acts weren't our own countrymen. The ones I cited, and probably this most recent one, were carried out by fellow Americans on their own people.

Several times a year, my students practice lock down drills, huddling in dark corners of shuttered classrooms, hoping they never have to actually use the skills they're learning. This is the world we've inherited, the legacy we're leaving for our children.

Again I ask, what can be done?

The Prayer 

First and foremost, I pray. For all concerned. The innocent and the guilty alike.

Before anyone accuses me of being a bleeding heart, let me clarify. I pray also for justice and consequences to the fullest extent of the law, despite any claims of repentance uttered by perpetrators. That's God's job to sort out. Ours here on earth is to stand in the way of these criminals killing again. But, since I'm not in the role of dispensing justice this side of heaven or in the hereafter, I pray for the next best thing: changed hearts for malefactors in the making. It's based on a simple botanical concept: remove, re-root, and replant. First, I ask the Master Gardener to remove sin and replace it with Christ's righteousness; then, re-root the organism in living water (the Holy Spirit's infilling); and ultimately replant the new believer into surroundings that will foster growth and maturity.  

When all is said and done, I've prayed for the wrongdoers and the victims, direct and indirect, for in the wake of every massacre, collateral damage is done. People die (the obvious victims). Others survive the carnage, but are forced to live with horrible memories. And family members on both sides of the crime lose loved ones to the grave or prison. Nobody wins.

The Action

But prayer is a catalyst for God-directed action, which brings me to my second step: continued writing. Every page I turn out, in one way or another, is meant to prick readers' hearts with Christ's truth. This, along with whispered messages of hope and encouragement to the young minds God has entrusted to me at home and at school, is probably my greatest contribution to society. Oh, I sign petitions and make phone calls to Capitol Hill. I vote. But, like the old man on the beach who kept tossing starfish back into the ocean, I make my largest dent one organism at a time. I tally victories the same way, and how sweet those occasions (however few and far between) when one realizes one's intervention has helped rescue a drowning creature. Lest I become discouraged, I recall Harriet Tubman, Corrie ten BoomOskar Schindler and Irena Sendler, whose "one victim at a time" efforts yielded untold descendants of the people whose lives they saved. I like to imagine Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jonas Salk descending from the loins of some of the folks whose prayers were answered in the form of frail masses of DNA simply doing their part.

The Leaning

Finally, and overarchingly, I simply lean into Christ. This is perhaps the most difficult step, but no less crucial than the other two. I'm reminded of the first and, if I can help it, last time I will ever ride a motorcycle. The experience was harrowing to say the least. As the passenger, I had to depend on the driver in front, who instructed me to lean with him into every curve. This advice smacked of danger and disaster, and ran counter-intuitive to every impulse in my body that wanted to remain upright! I had to lay aside my doubt and fear and muster trembling trust in the one who did the steering. By trading in my comfort zone for what seemed unnatural and unwise, I actually participated in keeping us and the bike safe. Who'd've thought?


The last thing I want to do is offer pat advice. I don't understand why God allows these heinous crimes, and I haven't the first idea how to offer comfort to those affected by them. Sadly, I am personally acquainted with three individuals who have lost loved ones to murder, and I consider it a privilege to support them in the ways I've described. Beyond that, I shake my head with the rest of you ... and weep.

Check out Matthew West's Do Something ~ and then, go out and do something!