These Sad Times

Is anyone else almost overwhelmed with the sad lately? Do you feel like saying “Wait a minute, God, I need a few days to catch up. Are you paying attention to what’s going on here? Please, can’t you send a bit more happy…or even just a few more days of numbness?”

It’s a weird time. As most of you know I just got back from an an amazing trip to Japan with my zestful, joyful, and “full of life” niece, Maggie.  Most of you also know we left still raw from the devastating death of my great nephew Kaelan. A few of you might know we went right after the chilling loss of my cousin Jason. I missed Jason’s memorial service. My family understood and was supportive, but I wanted to be there. I wanted to hug his parents and his brother, and absorb some of their pain. Oh, maybe you can’t absorb the pain of others….but you hope in some way being there for them can. I think it helps. And I wanted to be there…because family is there when you go through the best of times, the worst of times, and all days in between. And while my family is large in number, every single one of us matters and counts and is necessary for us to be whole.

There have been other suicides in our community lately.  Not only those that devastated my family, but also some that greatly impacted the lives of others that I love. What is happening to our world? What do we do to soothe the tortured soul? How do we recognize they’re drowning and get them to grab onto the life preserver?
Orlando happened….and as if the massacre itself wasn’t enough of a blow to our nation, the hate that some put out after hearing the news was stunning. Some said that because this happened in a gay nightclub, that these victims deserved it. I felt such despair at the very condition of mankind when I heard this was happening….and frustrated knowing that this kind of thought bred the hate that led to the massacre in the first place.How can anyone, especially Christians professing to speak in the name of God, smugly look at such carnage and say that people deserved it? Have these people forgotten the one requirement to them being a Christian is to acknowledge their own sin? To realize that their sin alone grieves God? That measuring the sin of others is fruitless, and when we do so we always see a distorted picture? When you are pointing fingers at others you are not looking into the face of God and following him.

We who are Christians should not be messengers of woe, but witnesses of hope. We should not be feared for the retribution we shovel out on others by the bucketload  ….instead, we should be a haven from the evil of the world, a beacon in darkness, salve to damaged and hurting souls, compassion for those who go astray. Our message should be “I am here for you, God is here, too. We will stand in harm’s way for you and protect you. Even from yourself.” That should even be our message to hate-filled Christians. Often that is where I am most challenged.

We all mourn differently. I am not the sackcloth and ashes type. I find it pointless. I want to find purpose in the pain. I want lives we have lost to matter….for others to know about them…and for their life to be more significant than their death. I am still learning how to make this happen, but that is my goal.

In church today we studied Mark 1, where Jesus told Simon and his brother Andrew to follow him and learn how to be “fishers of men”. What stood out to me was what they would have seen next. Jesus heals a lot of people. He identified needs and met them. It doesn’t mention once him taking his disciples on a sin identification field trip. It doesn’t appear that was what Jesus thought was most important for them to learn.
I’m a bit impatient with wall builders at the moment….people who cut people off in this world. People who are different than them, people who exercise their freedom in ways they don’t like, people who bruise their sensibilities, people who hurt their feelings…they try to build their world so they don’t ever encounter them. 
If this is you, get over it. Get out and mingle. Use your words and talk it out. When others don’t agree with your opinions, remember that they don’t have to. Talk to them, calmly and rationally. Mostly listen. Actively. You may learn something. They may learn something. Maybe in this world of paradox, you are both right. People are imperfect and insensitive and often just brats….but don’t let it stop you. Love them where they are. Don’t enable their behavior, but don’t condemn and isolate. Does hate, slamming doors in the faces of the world, really help? I can’t see that it ever has.
When in Japan we visited Hiroshima. It was thought-provoking. I was reminded that from carnage, hope and peace can grow. Good things can happen. You can choose to treasure grudges, build walls, shut out every one of those who brought you pain, and retaliate against them…or you can use the circumstance to make you stop and acknowledge the senselessness of such gestures and instead build something good.

I’ve asked God “Why?” a lot lately. I’ve looked at my own life and tried to dissect how I can better love in a way that plants goodness and breeds love. How I can open my eyes to those who are hurting and instead of instinctively running in the other direction (as I would prefer), stand my ground and open my arms?

I was not created for hate. I was created for love. I was not created to isolate. I was created to live in a world full of diverse people and be at peace with them. I was not created for despair. I was created for hope. 

I can be sad for all that has been lost, but I should not allow myself to remain overwhelmed. God is here. In the midst of it all are seeds of joy. Let’s plant these seeds in the name of hope. Let’s bring healing and beauty to our sad world.

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