It's been over a week since the Parkland shooting, and I still can't find the right words to say or type to describe the deep sorrow I feel for every person involved.
It's not that I want to put a description to my heartache. It's not that I want to share with the world my two cents on how we can better avoid tragedies like this in the future. I've been praying and asking God to show me how to address this issue. I know it can't go unaddressed. I know I can't simply ignore the hard stuff that goes on in the world whilst continuing to write about topics that might be, in essence, easier to put words to.
Mass shootings are something I'm sadly familiar with. On June 12, 2016, an evil man opened fire on the Pulse Nightclub a mere two minutes away from my door--carrying out what was, then, the deadliest mass shooting in American history. I can't put into words how surreal and upsetting that day and the weeks following it were, but, as I'm sure many of you can relate, waking up to the news that there are 49 innocent people lying dead less than two miles away from your home is not easy. It takes a while to surmount that kind of grief.
In the wake of this most recent shooting, the national climate surrounding the aftermath is drastically different. After Pulse, gun control was definitely a topic of discussion-- but it wasn't the forefront of the matter. Maybe I wasn't paying attention due to being in shock, but I feel like this time around there's change on the horizon. And I have to say, I'm relieved. On the topic of gun control, I used to think the simple, two-dimensional mindset: "Guns don't hurt people, people hurt people." But this argument in itself cannot withstand the ideal that mass murderers like Cruz would not have been able to hurt people--17 innocent high schoolers, to be exact-- without being able to get his hands on the assault weapon he used. Without certain, readily available access to those guns, he would have never been able to pull off the operation that he did.
Here's the thing. I know gun control is a controversial topic, but as Christians, the bold and selfless leaders for Christ's kingdom on earth, we are called to rally for change that reflects God's heart and His principles.
What are His principles? His principles are peace, goodness, kindness, righteousness, and justice. His tendencies towards peace are shown in Isaiah 9, where it is prophesied that a Messiah would be brought to earth, and that He would be called "Prince of Peace." He's called the Prince of Peace for a reason, y'all. We serve a King of order, not chaos.
1 Corinthians 14:33 says "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." This verse in particular refers to the manner in which worshippers should behave in church meetings, but if God seeks peace in this environment, then do you not think He'd want peace in His whole world--the world He created?
He shows goodness and kindness in the very manner of how He lived and healed countless souls. In Matthew 8 alone, He heals a man dying of leprosy, Peter's ill mother-in-law, and many demon-possessed people. In Matthew 9, He heals and forgives a paralyzed man, telling him "Take heart, your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2).
Lastly, He embodies righteousness and justice because He died on the cross to receive the fate we all deserve. The best scriptural example of these qualities I can find is Romans 3:21-26; fittingly entitled Righteousness Through Faith.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Jesus was righteous in everything he did, from healing the sick to leading the disciples to walking on water, to dying on the cross. His every action depicts wisdom, faith, and sacrificial love.
Yet, despite these qualities of our Lord and Savior, here we are-- still burdening the great backpack of sorrow. I keep seeing the tweets like, "We don't need your thoughts & prayers, we need policy & change." The very notion that we, as humans, could go on without God is blasphemy. This lack of reverence for His dominion is upsetting, but not shocking. The truth is, we need so much prayer. This entire subject needs to be covered and coated in prayer, from top to bottom, in every aspect.
Yes, things like this to happen because we live in a fallen world and restoration is certain in Heaven. And the Lord uses tragedies like this to renew and restore hearts, as backwards and twisted as it may seem. In his compelling book, The Reason for God, Timothy Keller says: "If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can't know. Indeed, you can't have both ways."
It's so hard to come to grips with tragedy of this magnitude. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it-- things like this truly leave you sick to your stomach in grief. There are families all around the nation aching to have their children, parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles back in their arms-- and something needs to be done about it. As Christians, we are called to be the catalysts for change.
Amidst the outcry for change, there have been funerals and vigils and nights of solemn people dressed in black, lifting candles to the sky in hopes that it will somehow gratify that bullet hole-sized void in their heart.
Here's what I ask in this time of contemplation, grief, and change: show compassion. Raise your candle proudly to the sky, lighting the candle of those around you. We can serve, we can pray, we can be nothing more than a shoulder to cry on. We can do all of these things simultaneously. We can pour out and be poured into by serving and praying for others. We can be a body of believers, defined by their ability to promote a safer and more truth-centered community for our neighbors.
Matthew 5:14-16 says this: "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Take the "you" and replace it with your name. I know it's cheesy, but this gives you a real look at how important you are in the scheme of making your Father known. Take this as a personal conviction to use your gifts and talents as a way to show Him to those in their time of need. Don't be idle in the wake of tragedy. Be willing to usher in a new era of kindness, compassion, and change.
**If you want to donate to the victims of Parkland, here's a GoFundMe page currently raising money and 100% of the profits go to victims and their families.
I've wanted so badly to make time to sit down this week and just write. Y'all, my heart aches for it in ways and in places I didn't know it could.
If you are at all familiar with Samford University, you are at least somewhat aware of the annual tradition that overtakes its campus each February: Step Sing.
An entire campus--comprised with its love for student participation, involvement, and enthusiasm--encourages each member of the student body to take part in this annual tradition.
We basically get into these large groups of 50-75 people and sing and dance in this huge competition just for the heck of it. There's no greater purpose other than to simply have a good time.
I wish I could say I've gotten a solid 8 hours in every night for the past 3 weeks (8 hours of sleep is a foreign concept to me anyway). I wish I could say I haven't cast aside the ever-lingering threat of homework the past few days. I wish I could say that I've kept up with my quiet time schedule and with keeping my room tidy, my dishes clean, my bed made, my laundry done... all the things. I wish I could say I've managed it all these past few weeks.
But I am not one for dishonesty, so I'm gonna be super frank with y'all. Step Sing is all-consuming and I'm honestly surprised I'm awake right now. However, in the grand scheme of things, 3 weeks of rehearsal 'til almost midnight is okay because the community is great. These people are people who I am truly honored to know. People who, last semester, if you had asked me, "Do you know this person?" I would've said, "Yeah, I know them!" But in all seriousness the knowing aspect of these relationships did not come into play until the late-night rehearsals, 12am Sonic runs became a thing.
I promise I'm getting to a point. I'm gonna keep this short & sweet because I actually have to start getting my hair and makeup ready for my rehearsal later (hahah, Step Sing).
Occasionally, it will happen that one has to break out of their comfort zone to find great things. Finding strong and lasting relationships in your everyday, "Hi, how are you?" is no longer sufficient. It never was. How will you truly know someone if all you ever know of them is how they tell you they're doing when you ask in passing? You'll never actually know because no one's going to say, "Yeah, I'm actually really stressed about this test I have tomorrow, and also my dog's sick, and I feel kind of alone sometimes to be honest" in passing. Unless you truly know them. And that can't happen until you stop what you're doing and ask questions. Seek to know how they really, truly are--- and not just how they appear to be on the surface.
Can I tell you something else? People want to be known. I've never met someone who doesn't want friends, who doesn't want someone that truly understands them.
I get so intimidated to seek out the friendship of people in college because their Instagram gives a false perception of who they are as a person, or I just get this feeling that I'm not cool enough to be worth their time. How silly and childish is that assumption? That I, a human being, as human as you are, cannot achieve a certain level of human-perfectness that would deem me worthy of hanging out with another human who is just as human as I am?
Y'all, my best friend in the whole world is a girl who told me point-blank she didn't want to be my friend in preschool. Given, it was preschool, and she feels really bad about this now, but two years later we were inseparable. The impossible can happen because Jesus makes impossible things real!
Take me up on this challenge: make a new friend today. Seek out the company of someone who scares you because, in all honesty, they probably seem scary because they're aching to be known too.
Make it your mission to seek out the ones who bring a smile to your face. And if you don't have those people yet-- go find them. I promise they exist. All it takes is doing something out of your comfort zone.