in the wake of Orlando

Oh, Orlando.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t 100% sure how to talk about this painful tragedy, especially in the social media space where words can be so misconstrued and people can be judged or hurt so easily. Social media is a breeding ground for anger these days. I am still not certain, and I’ll be honest that writing what is in my heart makes me nervous. However, I am certain that I cannot choose silence. The silence is making me hurt. It occurs to me that my silence might also be hurting others. When I look around and feel like many people have just returned to life as usual, it makes me tremble. 49 people were ruthlessly killed. Many more injured. A city has been shaken. Families are broken. The LGBT community, in particular, is grieving and scared and hurting. Silence just doesn’t feel like an option for me.

In relation to our country as a whole, it is my belief that we must collectively resist the temptation to dig in our heels and treat other people as our enemies, even if we have never been on the same side of an issue until now. The most obvious example, perhaps, is my opinion that we must find some common ground and make positive steps in the area of gun control. We have to be humble enough to listen, learn, and work together for the good of our loved ones. Because these attacks keep happening- in schools, in places of worship, in dance halls, in work places. This one was perpetrated by someone claiming allegiance to ISIS, others have been perpetrated by mentally disturbed individuals, and the list goes on to a depressing length. Are all of the attacks preventable? Of course not. Evil people will find ways to perpetrate evil. But if we can make key changes that save even a small handful of lives, as many other countries have had success in doing, shouldn’t we try? This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are, of course, other positive changes we could make if we chose to stand in humility and love for each other.

It seems right, in addition to reaching out and honoring the victims by seeking change, to also take a hard look within to see where I personally might need to change. This may actually be the more difficult thing to change, and perhaps the more important one. I do not have easy answers. Wrestling with pertinent issues– like gun control, faith and sexuality, and Christian engagement in our culture– feels like a good place to start. The sacred and the secular have had a veritable war waging within me this week. Admitting that I do not know everything is a great and true place to start. Confessing that it is possible for me to be wrong? Also a wonderfully freeing foundation for conversation and growth.

I urge my fellow strugglers, my fellow wrestlers, to resist the temptation to dismiss opposite opinions too quickly. And let us not just let this horrific tragedy slip by and leave us unchanged. May we all choose to be like Jesus in the midst of every conversation, heeding this call: “everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

Here are some bits from moving pieces I have read which have helped me to begin processing.

From a dear friend’s blog: “This is the battle we fight in our hearts and minds. Face-to-face with violence, feeling helpless, defeated, alone. But this is not the time to shake our heads and move on. This is a time to look up, to stand together, to do something.”

In the Face of Violence

A speech that really got me thinking: “How did you feel when you heard that 49 people had been gunned down by a self-proclaimed terrorist? That’s the easy question. Here is the hard one: Did that feeling change when you found out the shooting was at a gay bar at 2 am in the morning? If that feeling changed, then we are doing something wrong.”

Utah Lt. Gov. Says ‘My Heart Has Changed’ After Orlando Shooting

From an author who always has me laughing and crying and thinking in the same 2 minutes: “Much of the Bible is confusing, but the most important parts aren’t. Sometimes I wonder if folks keep arguing about the confusing parts so they don’t have to get started doing the simple parts.”

A Mountain I’m Willing to Die On

Some months ago I read Searching For Sunday by Rachel Held Evans. Although some of my conclusions have (thus far) not aligned with hers, I could and can relate to so very much of what she expressed in her struggles with the church today. Thinking, processing, and allowing for change are all important to a vibrant and true faith. As she puts it, “I am writing because sometimes we are closer to the truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties.”

May our hearts not become hardened. May God graciously continue to mold and make us in His image, the image of a God who “showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

Peace and grace to you, especially my brothers and sisters who are still grieving and hurting today. I hope that my imperfect words can at least express that my heart is with you in the trenches.