Seventeen families are living a nightmare this week. If I stop and think about what these folks are experiencing, it’s overwhelming. Everywhere I look there are reminders of just how much pain my fellow parents are feeling. I had the extreme privilege of hugging my child this morning and it brought me to tears.
Call me crazy if you must, but I’m not ashamed to weep for strangers. If collective sorrow is what it’s going to take to help people heal, change peoples’ hearts for good, motivate us to help hurting people, is crying such a bad thing? And come on, who isn’t crying about the tragic loss of life in what should be the safest of places?
There’s a lot of debate, as there always is after tragedy, about what to do next. The below piece of verse has been nagging at my brain, so I looked it up and found comfort and direction not just in Romans 12:9, but also in the verses that followed:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Feeling helpless is horrible. We want something to do, a way to act, and act now. We want this because these precious souls, the ones we lost, they matter, and we don’t want them to have been lost in vain. We want to act now because for some of us it feels like the earth has stopped spinning and the sun has turned to coal. Or it would if those had been our kids.
People always say you don’t know what someone is going through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. I think that kind of cliché does us all a disservice, because it assumes we do not have the capacity for empathy. I don’t know anyone who is incapable of empathizing with others. We just don’t do it as much as we should. I know one thing for sure – I think we can all imagine all too well what we would feel like if those had been our kids. And it scares the daylight out of us.
So we grieve. And we get up and we cling to what is good. We bless those who curse us. We make time to put kindness and light and purity back into the world as best we can. If the life, death, and resurrection of Christ has taught us anything, it is that the worst thing to happen is never the last thing that happens. Even though it may not feel like it now, love always wins in the end.