This week has been heavy, friends. It started with my NPR app sending me horrifying texts in the middle of the night Sunday and grew as the death toll rose and our sense of safety was again rocked.
It continued with immediate culture wars. Fingers pointing. Angry words. Emotions preyed upon for political gains (all parties).
Guys. People have lost their lives.
I’ll never forget September 15, 1999. It was the night a crazed gun man waltzed into my friends’ church and killed 7 people, injuring 7 more. It was before we all had the internet or cell phones. I didn’t even have cable. I raced home to call my parents, “are they ok?” frantic into the phone.
“I saw Walter on tv, he’s ok.”
Even though my friends were ok, I spent the next few days walking around my Northern Iowa college campus in a haze that no one else understood. That church-those were halls I’d walked, friends I knew. It could’ve been them. It could’ve been me. I’d find out years later, my husband was supposed to be there sitting in the back but his mom had a bad feeling and kept him home. My friends in Iowa couldn’t understand how I felt, and few of them listened. Days later, after a weekly prayer gathering on campus I broke down. (People who know me well, know I don’t do this often). Two friends enveloped me in hugs and prayed over my broken spirit.
That’s what I won’t forget. That’s what I needed.
Years later, as a youth minister, I would walk the halls of that church over and over and over. Years later, I would know the families who’d lost their children and friends and spouses that night. Years later, I’d understand even more first hand the grief they live with every day. I’d know their stories. I’d eat in their homes. I’d keep crying tears with them. There are wounds in their hearts that will always always be wide open because a part of them was stolen that night now almost 20 years ago. There are wounds in their minds because they saw things that eyes are not meant to see. Adrenaline that God intended to protect us in only the worst situations pumped through their veins that night.
When evil succeeds not only in killing us, but pitting us against one another, evil continues to win. We must be unified today. An attack on one American is an attack on all Americans. We have to remember the real enemy. The real enemy is EVIL. But evil likes it when we fight. Evil likes it when we forget about him and focus on each other. We’re like that dysfunctional family fighting at a funeral.
But the victims and their families and their community are WEARY today. They have already been weary and will keep being weary.
Yesterday the internet made me weary. Too much fighting and finger pointing, not enough love, not enough grace, not enough listening.
You know how we win? You know how we fight evil?
It starts on our level. It doesn’t start corporately or on the political stage. It doesn’t start on Twitter. HEAVEN HELP US.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
There are feelers and fixers and that’s fine. But fighting now is not the time.
Be a helper. Be a friend. Give a hug. Send a text. Say a prayer. Be a giver.