Photo by Eternal Seconds on Unsplash
I looked out my airplane window and saw a giant American flag flapping in the breeze, welcoming me home. After a week of wonder and awe in Mexico, it was a beautiful site. I didn’t realize at the time that we were coming home to a country that still seems intent upon ripping itself to shreds with not only violence, but hatred of other people in the midst of violence.
A person need only flip open their favorite social media platform to see some pretty starkly partisan takes, hot, cold, and otherwise, about our most recent incidents in Texas and Ohio. For the most part, it’s all hot garbage that people are using because they struggle with the emotional turmoil our people are experiencing.
I’ll summarize social media for you, if you have avoided it.
“All guns are bad, why do you need them?”
“See, this is why Trump is evil.”
“This is why white supremacy is bad.”
“I’ll shoot any shooty shoot shooter with my bangity boom boomer, cuz America *pew pew*”
There’s another trope that has become popular.
Thoughts and Prayers.
It is customary for people who are commenting on a situation to conclude their statement that their thoughts and prayers are with the people effected by tragedy. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you tonight.”
It is also customary for angry people to push against the idea of thoughts and prayers. They are ready for a super hot take about who is to blame, who to demonize, how to move the tragedy toward their cause or to move a politician straight into the limelight of shame.
I get that we’re angry and I also get that we’re hurt. But, America, thoughts and prayers is our first step. We have a problem and it is multi-faceted. It has to do with all of the above problem children of gun obsession, violence desensitization, mental health issues, parenting failures, education system malaise, and verbal garbage falling out of the mouths of many of our elected officials, left and right.
What if, instead of taking to the internet with our anger, we took to our own minds and examined why the murder of complete strangers makes us so angry? Anger is complex, by the way. Christians like to espouse this flying unicorn of an emotion called “righteous anger.” We point to the moment Jesus cleansed the temple, the one documented time in his ministry where he was angry, and justify anger in our own lives. We point at a festering cesspool of toxic emotions because we want to pour out of ourselves as powerfully, not getting that most of our anger is another emotion entirely.
Righteous anger is truly an indignation that is primary and, with love, moves to right a wrong. It is rare.
For most of us, anger is a septic infection following another emotion that has not been healed.
When I was a kid and I had the occasion to throw hands with another person because diplomacy was broken, at the end, once all of the energy was spent, all that was left was tears. It was like boiling down sea water and finding so much salt when all was said and done. The essence of the ocean inside of me was sadness, masked by anger.
When tragedy, like those in Texas and Ohio strike, it would be very good for us to unplug from the toxicity of other people’s causes and find out why we are so angry. We need to boil down our emotions to truth. We need…
Because on the other side of our thoughts is a discovery, not about what is wrong about the world…
But within us.
If we are unwilling to change because we are unwilling to think, what hope is there that this situation is going anywhere but further down?
If you really want to know who has the right to anger, by the way, might want to check the heart of the King of the skies and of the heart who most definitely does not have murder as His design for our passions. He has also seen every. single. one.
If you haven’t gotten the point about why it’s important to restrain anger until its due time consider the abomination that much of our societal sin must be to Him, and then realize that He has left us still alive.
If you really, REALLY want to understand that kind of restraint, or you really, REALLY want to know from Him why these terrible things happen, you need to ask Him. And I’m not advocating for a “look for an audible voice to come out of the clouds” sort of a moment. For those who hear from God in such a way, it’s unsettling. He chooses His way. And you know it when it happens.
If you want clarity in your thinking, or your emotions are so hot that thinking has become impossible, do try to engage another front, which is the spirit. It’s the heart in the place where it is eternal. It is very old thoughts from the place where where we get the capacity to think.
It’s a conversation with God that doesn’t have a time table. We open our conversation and by virtue of its beginning, leave ourselves open to an answer.
Consider that when we call our mobile phone carriers about a problem with our phone, we expect an answer. We also expect there to be a necessary response action on our part since the phone is ours. We have to restart something, reboot something, install something, or bring something to a store.
Why not our heart and our world?
Why, when we pray, do we not prepare for a reasonable hold time for the right time to act to appear? Why, when we pray, do we not prepare for part of the answer to be action, on our part, to perform a solution?
Why do we say we’re praying for people when we don’t really?
Because we’re lazy and we don’t want to be a part of the solution to someone else’s problems.
Someone Else’s Problem
I fear that is what these shootings are to those of us not in the area codes where they occur. I fear they are someone else’s issue and it distracts from what we really want people to look at. We are, after all, the most narcissistic generation to live in this world.
How dare someone else’s tragedy distract from my brand?
But like the poet said, no man is an island unto himself
Like the poet said, ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee
When something like this strikes, mourn for the loss and take time. It is not someone else’s problem. It is yours. It is mine. It is our problem because the person who lost a loved one did not have a special kind of loved one. Their children are just like our children. They are brothers. They are sisters. They are known to others and known to God. The person who committed this evil in both places is not a specially born kind of crazy. They were made from biological material like you and me. They break like you and me. They hate like you and me.
That means it is time to think.
It is time to pray.
Do not type out “thoughts and prayers” and then move on with your life. That’s not helping.
Think and when you think, let your thoughts explore your connection to tragedy and explore what is really wrong, not conveniently wrong.
Pray and when you pray, expect God to answer. And expect that part of the answer to be a challenge and call to be part of the solution to heal the wounds of our land.