There is something about violent loss of life that affects me deeply. I can’t really describe it exactly. It is like part of me FEELS it as if it was my own. I liken it to when I miscarried our first child and it felt as if part of ME was missing. Like part of my heart was ripped away. Each time there is a shooting, or an earthquake, or an attack in which innocent people die, I feel myself pulled into a somber mode of grief. It is a quiet space that is respectful of the losses. A place where life is not cheapened with words, but valued with silence. Where I cry out through tears because no words will suffice. It is a solemn place that my heart takes me to without even asking me. The pain here is excruciating and it requires much contemplation…not of the whys, or whos, but more of the brokenness that is our world. Brokenness that is too big to be fixed by human efforts, and what that means for us. My hands are stilled for a time, my mouth quieted, and my ears wide open. I want to HEAR in these moments of reverence, but more times than not there is no sound. I used to be alarmed by this, because I felt God was silent in the most painful times when he should be explaining himself to people. However, I have learned that human nature cannot be explained. I have learned that his heart grieves loss of life as he watches us destroy ourselves. He says so little, because really what is there to say that hasn’t been said already? “Love one another. Love as I have loved you.” He does not speak because we do not listen when he does. Instead, he comforts those who mourn in quietness of soul. He weeps with those who weep.
I have written to the families of nearly every shooting victim starting with Sandy Hook. After natural disasters I have sent words into places of darkness in an attempt to bring hope again. It is a way to express my sympathy, but it is also a way to hold space for those in pain. This idea of a place that is left open for loved ones to express outrage, shock, sorrow, and horror is a way to validate their suffering. I know that when people are in a dark place, being validated means the world. I have been in some very dark places. Unfortunately much of what is said in these moments does not validate…it cheapens. I cannot watch news coverage any more. It cheapens. I cannot listen to politicians. They cheapen. Reducing lives lost to sound bites is disrespectful at the least and irreverent at the worst. Those vehicles of communication are not worthy of my breath, or the letters on this page.
What is important is that those who are left behind are treated with compassion. That their losses are acknowledged and that they have a place to express their roller coaster feelings that is emotionally safe. Facebook isn’t that place. T.V. is not that place. Church isn’t it either. Nor is out in the community. Those places are places where opinions trump consideration. They are places where arguing your point is more important than being kind. It is my prayer for these families that they could find the secret place in the shelter of the most high and rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Where they are understood and known. Where the language of grief is spoken fluently. Where no words are needed because tears become prayers.
I pray for the people of Roseburg as they begin the healing process. I pray for unity, for peace, for comfort, for grace, and for strength to walk the path that was chosen for them by a man they didn’t know. I pray that they would lift one another up and hold each other tight. I pray that God would do a healing work to the hearts that are broken. That the shattered pieces would somehow be put back together. That the presence of God would surround each family member and that peace that passes understanding would reign. I ask God to wipe every tear, to catch them as they fall, and to provide comfort in the grieving process. That his heart would be expressed to each person affected in this dire circumstance. That the people would take one day at a time, one breath at a time as they walk through the most difficult days ahead. Please, Lord hold them up, bind them together in friendship, kindness and love. Amen.