Like so many of you I have no words that will convey understanding of the violence and killing that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty young children and six adults were brutally gunned down by a young man with guns. The crime is unspeakable and fills our hearts with indescribable saddness and pain. Our pain will take some time to go away however the pain of the families who lost their little ones and the teachers may never go away. My mentor Dr. Howard Thurman writes: at some time or other in a person's life we are visited by the 'experience of the agony.' Newtown, Connecticut is the latest to have that experience and visit. Our hearts go out to all who have been affected by this horrific tragedy.
To be honest I am tiring of the continued occurrences of shootings taking the lives of the innocent. Hardly had I gotten around the tragedy in a movie theatre in Colorado then I am inundated yet again by the media's coverage of Newtown. The pattern emerging is one that tears at my heart strings. I know that pattern so well and it conjures up negative thoughts and accusations inside of me. I know the drill as I know you know! .We interrupt for breaking news . . .images of people fleeing for their lives even as the cameras roll. News anchors stop whatever they were doing and within hours they are reporting directly from the scene. Microphones and cameras are placed in front of terrified people who have just been visited by the experience of the agony. Countless officials, including the President of the U.S.A. hold news conferences which they hope will accurately inform the public of what just happened, Over and over again the experience of the agony is reported. Politicians differ on what should be done and when, if anything can be done. You get the pattern!
My temperature rises when I hear such stupid comments from politicians like Mike Huckabee declaring the tragedy would not have occurred had 'prayer and God' not been removed from the public schools in America. As much as I respect a few of the CNN journalist too many of them act like 'super stars' vying for ratings as they keep the tragedy alive much too long for my comfort. However, what grates on me more than anything is that we know those politicians and officials who claim to be stunned keep finding ways to avoid talking real action to curb such gun violence. How many more deaths by guns in public places will it take to get America to really do something? How many more times will I have to hear 'the gun lobbyists' will never be beaten because of their money and power? In the past 48 hours after the Newtown tragedy, the arguments for and against some type of gun control policy goes on feverishly. In the meantime, President Obama will visit the area and participate in a national time of mourning/memorial for the deceased. He is more heart broken this time because he has children of his own and can only imagine the pain of the parents of the 20 children who died.
Where does that leave me? I can only offer what I believe and have experienced as a pastor, a parent and a grandparent. 1) I acknowledge a void has been created in the lives of the families who lost their children and loved ones. 2) I affirm, through my tears and my broken heart, that it will take a long time for the broken hearts to mend. 3) I must not create and argument with the God of my life, regardless of its therapeutic and religious value. My issue is not with God -it resides with those who have it within their power to lessen such violence again. 4) I am reminded again of my mentor Dr. Howard Thurman who says:" what we thought we could not bear we have to bear it anyway." Not one of us is exempt from being visited by the experience of the agony. 5) Even though my heart breaks for all who have been visited by the experience of the agony, I must find a way to place my experience into a category of faith and trust in God. Otherwise, I will wallow in my grief which can easily turn into revenge or even render me hopeless and helpless. This I must do with every ounce of my being, knowing the God of my life will eventually show me a path through my experience of the agony. In the meantime, I wait, I write in my journal and I pray to God that my grief will not drive me away from Him. This is the season of remembrance and forgiveness. I must learn to do both. And so it is!
Every now and then I need to be reminded about a lot of things. I need to be reminded how I am "too blessed to be stressed." I need to be reminded of the wonderful woman I have been married to for nearly 53 years. Every now and then I need to recount the blessings I have received from others. I often need to be reminded of God's love for me as seen through the eyes of others. I need to be reminded that 'trouble don't last always.'
I need to be reminded of the small and the large graces afforded me. I need to be reminded that there are some people still unable to return to what was once their home before hurricane Sandy demolished it. Every now and then I need to accept the fact that 'stuff' happens and it is up to me whether I learn to handle it. I need to be reminded of the many blessings and graces afforded me especially when the level of the water in my well is low. I need to be reminded of the people I care about and who care about me. I need to be reminded that life's pressure weighs heavily upon all of us at some point in our lives. I need to be reminded that life is fragile at times thus, we can easily be broken. I need to be reminded that whatever I am praised for while indeed a blessings, yet it may not have anything to do with me.
I need to be reminded that God's strength is sufficient even when I am overwhelmed by my daily rituals. I need T O re reminded of the people in my life who traveled to hospital bedsides, who carried the communion basket and towel with me. I need to remember how my two Dorothy's accompanied me to grave sides, to hospital rooms where a birth had occurred; who stood side by side with me every Sunday and made the service come alive. I need to remember the elderly preacher who rode to Anniston, Alabama with me every Sunday during my senior year of college. His advice and counsel and his watching over me on a segregated Trail Ways bus is the reason I am alive today.
Every now and then remind yourself of God's goodness and mercy. There have been times when your cup and mine have run over but there was someone you could reach out to for support and love. I am reminded that my agenda and my daily rounds are not always in my control. Someone, some incident, a phone call or an email changes the course of my day. When that happens to us we just learn to go with it. Why? Because there is something that may come out of the incident that will change our lives forever. BUT IF NOT. . .I will continue to keep myself open to hear the birds singing-to hear the wind blowing against my face- to see a mother's arm wrapped around her child as she stands waiting in line at the store- or when I read about the NYPD officer kneeling down to be face to face with a man without shoes-or when I hear from my friend whose mother continues to live in Syria determined to live out her days there. But most of all I am reminded and thankful to all of the people who have touched my life and who have brooded over me and in doing so, have made me whole again. Think about it! What do you need to be reminded of? And so it is!