Like many of us, I woke up Monday morning to read about the domestic terrorist attack in Las Vegas. As I read about it, I got angrier and angrier. But here’s the thing… I wasn’t angry that it happened. I was angry how I felt. Or better said…I was angry about what I wasn’t feeling.
I felt numb to it.
I was angry that my initial feeling was numbness. How can I grow numb to the deaths of 60+ people and 500+ injured in an absolutely senseless act of violence? How can I so little that as I read the story of what transpired that I can easily just switch over to another app to see how the Sunday Night Game turned out?
A member of our church sent me an email this afternoon entitled “Mourning Fatigue” where he included a short commentary written by John C. Dorhauer, the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Dorhauer put into words what I was (and am) feeling:
I am fast losing the capacity to mourn all that we must mourn. Charlottesville becomes Houston becomes Florida becomes Puerto Rico becomes Las Vegas. Every lost life is a name, a history, a hope, a story – an unfulfilled future. Every lost life leaves behind loved ones who mourn and grieve and piece together a future of their own torn asunder by matters we cannot comprehend. I can’t find words to capture this pain, this collective grief and anger. I cannot reach deep enough into my soul to express fully the pain, the anger, the rage, the confusion, the anxiety, the emptiness. When will it end? And what must I do, must I do, must I do to respond with meaning, with purpose, with intent so that whatever hope we talk about on the other side of this is not vapid and vain? I feel utterly powerless. God help us all. Inspire imagination. Inspire hope. Inspire healing. Inspire resistance. Inspire something new and something bold and something grand. This cannot be our ongoing narrative. We have to want something better than this. Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.
This week, I have found myself going back to the story of Job on several different occasions – it has come up in several pastoral conversations and just seems to capture this struggle for me. The story of Job is a parable where a faithful man named Job loses virtually everything in his life in what is written of as a cosmic bet between God and Satan. Without getting into the details of that part of the story, what captures me time and time again in Job’s story is what happens when his three friends show up after eveyrthing has fallen apart for Job (I also blogged about this several years ago here). Job 2:11-13 says:
Now when Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, each of them set out from his home—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They met together to go and console and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him, and they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.
That’s the place I am right now. There are no words for what took place. I feel that the place to be right now is to lament where we are in our world today. To raise our voices and weep aloud, to tear our robes and throw dust in the air. To sit in the dirt with the wounded and the hurting for seven days and seven nights, not saying anything for we know the suffering is great.
This feeling is not just for Las Vegas, but it is for those that Rev. Dorhauer named as well – those who are still trying to figure out life post-hurricanes. It is for those who have died in hundreds of other shootings this year. It is for those who suffer the injustices of racism and hatred. It is for each of us when we look at another and do not see the image of God in them.
My picture today is from a flower that I have been seeing the last several days as I walk from home to the church. It is a glorious yellow that just beautifully reflects the sunlight late in the day. Today though it represents the numbness to all of this – the greyness that blots out the color and the feeling. But my prayer for myself and for us all is that we will move from that numbness to a place of feeling once again …of having those feelings lead us to be a part of changing this world in ways that we may not believe are possible, but in the power of God and in the shared community that we are in, are more than possible.
Finally, a prayer that also spoke to me from our denomination written by Rev. Dr. Laurie Ann Kraus…
God of our life, whose presence sustains us in every circumstance,
As the sound of gunfire again echoes over another American city,
we seek the grounding power of your love and compassion.
As death rained down from above in the dark of night,
We pray this day for the Sun of Righteousness to arise with healing in its wings,
and rain mercy, grace and peace upon our broken people.
So many have been lost: brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends
gathered in the unity of music, scattered by evil and hatred.
We pray for solace for all who loved them.
We pray for those who have been spared and those whose lives are changed forever
that they may find healing, sustenance, and strength in the hard days to come.
We give thanks for first responders:
who ran toward gunfire, rather than away
who dropped everything to save the wounded and comfort survivors
We pray for doctors and nurses and mental health providers
who repair what has been broken
who to try to bring healing and hope
in the face of the unchecked principalities and powers of violence .
We ask for sustaining courage for those who are suffering and traumatized.
We cry, how long, O Lord?
But the same words echo back, again and again
as if the question comes to us from You— how long, how long, how long…
In the wake of an event that should be impossible to contemplate
but which has become all too common in our experience,
open our eyes, break our hearts,
and turn our hands to the movements of your Spirit,
that our anger and sorrow may unite in service to build a reign of peace,
where the lion and the lamb may dwell together,
and terror no longer holds sway over our common life.
In the name of Christ, our healer and our Light, we pray, Amen.