with heavy hearts, we greet the day: part two.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Recently, I have been working (and writing) through a lot of thoughts regarding the recent tragedies in both Isla Vista and at Seattle Pacific University. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that honesty bleeds through these words, and often times I'm processing frustration and confusion in writing, attempting to find the exit hole of whatever I'm working through. I wanted to preface this entry with that statement, providing some context for what follows.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote an entry about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school, titled with heavy hearts, we greet the day. It reflected frustration over the events in CT, grief over lives lost, and the breaking through of hope we all so desperately needed to feel that December day and the months afterwards. It broke my heart each morning, waking up to CNN coverage of the shooting as details emerged, photographs of the lost were released, and footage of candlelight vigils showered television stations and the front pages of newspapers.

I remember writing the words, "I began to realize that this was no "normal" school shooting. One never is, but so many go passed unnoticed, so many don't make the national news. This one did." And my first thought after the news had broke at Isla Vista, and then the following news at SPU, remained the same. Normality. How is this becoming normal. How is this becoming a common occurrence. How am I not entirely surprised when this happens. How can I see a notification on my iPhone from CNN about a shooting somewhere, anywhere, and not be moved to my knees immediately in prayer, understanding the grief that will flood families and communities stretching from bullet casings and white sidewalks that will never be as clean as they were. How, is this becoming normalized.

The Isla Vista shootings hit close to my heart. I can't recall the last time I was sent a flood of messages from friends and family the morning after the shootings, asking if I was okay. When the name of my city is plastered all over national news, people take notice. And I noticed, less than two weeks later, when the SPU shootings broke national news. In such a short amount of time, I was both on the sending and receiving end of those weighted messages. The minutes that lay between when you send a text message asking if someone is okay, to when they respond with a "yes," are the longest minutes you will ever experience. I was sitting at my kitchen table reading about SPU when the message from a close friend came into my phone, letting me know he was okay, and I remember my chest caving in and dropping my head into my hands. He had said he was down the hall from the shooter. Had seen him pinned down on the ground. And had simply asked, "why do people do this?"

I don't have an answer for that question. We are a fallen race. Humanity is not perfect. Reading the news press coverage of both of these shootings these last few weeks have left a bitter taste in my mouth I still haven't been able to completely swallow away. I wish I knew a better way to feel okay again. At the hardest places in my life, I have come before the Lord speechless. God, I have no words. When I feel as I do now, I know honesty is the best way to converse with you. And in that utter and complete honesty, you will provide what is utterly necessary for the place I am in. You are still in control of this life. Of this world. This prayer has been on my heart and mind since the shootings.

Will life ever go back to normal? No. These events change us, mark in each of our individual histories when we found ourselves on our knees, honestly, before the Lord. Yes, the headlines will disappear from the papers, and websites, but tragedies like this will never completely disappear from our experiences. And we find hope within them, we find reasons to praise God nonetheless, but we recognize and affirm the tragedy. We acknowledge the lives lost, and those who stepped forward to help others. We find hope. We attempt to move forward. But God, how hard are those first few steps forward. How difficult is it to begin again.

In the midst of tragedy and despair, Psalm 40 has also been on my heart and mind.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
     he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
     out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
     and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
     a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
     and put their trust in him.

When I have had to walk through rough situations, I have always turned to this psalm. I'm a metaphorically driven person, I think and process and explore and write in metaphors. This is the most recent metaphor I have been sitting in, as I process both the tragedies in Isla Vista and at SPU, as well as some rough personal situations.

In life, we hold tightly to what we know. To what is comfortable, and what we feel secured by. More often than not, whatever we have grasped with a white-knuckle grip, is temporary. Is not something that will sustain us for eternity, perhaps for a long haul, but eventually will be taken away. People will die, individuals will leave, you will have to leave, bidding cities and familiarity farewell, whether by your own will or not. And in those initial days, of having whatever you were gripping so tightly to, removed, there is confusion. There is frustration. There are days, weeks, months, where you are reaching for something, anything, to hold onto. Wildly stretching out for whatever is within reach to restore the comfortable and familiar, to bring you back to where you were.

In those moments where we are so desperately finding something to hold onto, we forget one very important fact. As our arms are swinging around, attempting to restore their white-knuckle grip, we lose track of where we are standing. The firm foundation on which we stand. Only in the seconds when we pause to look down to where we stand, do our hands pause in their search for something to hold onto. And slowly drop to our sides, when we realize we don't need to hold onto something. That the foundation we stand upon is enough, And where I am right now, is here, on that firm foundation of our faithful Father, as my hands are slowly dropping to my side, no longer reaching for the comfortable and familiar grip of whatever it was holding on to before. On the firm foundation, sufficient for me. Sufficient for all.

The trek forward is hard.
The first few steps are the most difficult.
But at least we know the foundation on which we walk forward is firm, and will never fail.

My prayer is that we would find reassurance in that, as we all begin to walk forward.

Respectfully submitted,