This last week, we’ve felt particularly close to tragedy. First on Friday with a deadly accident outside of the school following carpool, and then again on Monday when we got word of a shooting in Centennial with the results being a dear friend, father, husband, and doctor lost too soon. Somehow there is something that feels different with this kind of loss, in many ways these losses feel preventable; and yet, in the midst of it, we couldn’t stop it. These kind of moments remind us of our own vulnerability and how truly out of control this life we hold so dear really is. Despite our best efforts the reality is that we aren’t in control, not really.
We tend to live life as if we are invincible. As if we will have more time to sort out grudges that we hold, to say our “I love you.” The truth is we don’t know. We never know. We may not have more time.
When this kind of tragedy occurs, I can’t help but be reminded of this same helpless feeling that I felt in the days following the Columbine shooting. The utter shock in learning that even kids aren’t safe. School is not safe, but instead a place of tragedy. That my peers may be dangerous. That the suburbs, the epitome of the American dream, could be places of tragedy.
The places I used to see as safe suddenly felt dangerous. It became hard to look at people and trust that they were good at the core. Suddenly it felt like everyone was suspect.
How can the Kingdom be there? In the midst of such despair? How can community be built in such tragedy?
In those days following Columbine, I saw community strengthen and rally. I saw hope and love. There were also moments when we felt overwhelmed by the tragedy. It felt like the world was imploding. There were many moments of frustration and anger and hopelessness. How can people be so broken and selfish? Why haven’t we figured out how to recognize and repair the broken places in people before it is too late?
How do we love each other better? How do we support each other better?
Following Columbine, I had a hard time falling asleep. When you no longer feel safe in places that should be safe, you begin to live life waiting. Waiting for the next tragedy. I remember lying awake so often praying for those who had lives forever altered. Whose families would never be the same. The parents of killers who now had to reconcile the sweet baby they held, to one that would carry out such hatred. How do they move on? I couldn’t watch the news without it keeping me up wondering how those who caused tragedy would manage a life. How do they sleep? And what brokenness must be in their lives that led them to this moment? How do they survive the dark nights knowing the wide spread pain they caused?
Every night I pray Psalm 4:8, “ And now I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
In time, you learn to trust people again. Sleep follows.
In the midst of tragedy that can feel so utterly overwhelming, in the midst of the world feeling like a place of fear and darkness, is this reminder: HE alone makes us dwell in safety.
We’ve been reading Luke 6 with students this week. In it, Jesus shares the circumstances we are blessed in: when we are poor, when we hunger, when we weep, when men hate us, when we are excluded, when we are opposed by others. Blessed? Really?
In our culture that list seems like a curse.
Like the world imploding. Like it is all wrong.
But it is in these moments that we remember that HE alone makes us dwell in safety.
It is in these moments when the Kingdom is built. And we are blessed.
For those of us who have felt like tragedy is close, who are overwhelmed by it, who are feeling fearful- may we remember that HE alone makes us dwell in safety. May we remember that we are blessed. May we work to bring the Kingdom here. May we say “I love you” more. May we live in hope. May we offer more grace. May we release the grudge.
And now we will lie down to sleep, for you alone, LORD, make us dwell in safety.