Yesterday morning, before hearts were shattered in a small Texas town, I sat in a pew in my own church after singing one of my favorite hymns. It was right after greeting time that I found myself scanning the sanctuary, seeing both friends and new faces.
One familiar face lead my focus to something other than the chorus that was being sang in unison around me. This person I spied belongs in a special category of friends. We talk. We really talk. My thoughts began to drift to a particular conversation we had months ago about the deep matter of race relations after a week when several police officers lost their lives.
I can't remember how such a heavy conversation started, but those months ago we began to talk about the loss of life, why it happened... what lead to it. We each shared our thoughts and the experiences life had dealt us. Some of the experiences I had were foreign to this person. Likewise, I had little context to fully understand something that happened to my friend as a teenager.
We listened to each other too, a difficult task, because each of us had hearts bursting at the seams to share emotion demanding to be released. Neither of us abandoned our calm demeanor even though rebuttals bounced around inside our heads. I listened, not fully capable of understanding, but listened trying to understand because I loved my friend. My friend did the same. Love. That's the start. Any conversation or relationship devoid of it has no meaning.
I don't mind telling you that many communication scenarios (which lack understanding) play out in my own bedroom with the person on this earth I love the most. I carefully select a time to bring up a necessary (in my mind) grievance to my husband. We agree on pretty much every controversial issue you'll find in the morning news, but other matters (even seemingly simple ones) have me occasionally thinking, Who is this person?
I might tell him I feel lonely or ignored and lay out scenario 1, 2, and 3 that support why I feel that way. He responds, equally cautious, but dumbfounded, completely unable to translate the feelings that are so real to me. We're both fairly intelligent, but we're different. From our experiences to our genetic makeup, we're not put together the same. Sure we seek to understand one another, but our relationship doesn't depend on that. It can't. No, our coming together must be based on something greater.
I, like you, am befuddled at the news coming from Sutherland Springs, Texas, yesterday. We're painfully imagining what it would be like to be that mother or father that were out of state when hearing the news that their youngest child perished in the place that they worship every week. What do you say to the man who yesterday was left a widower after having lost his pregnant wife and three children?
Our wondering doesn't stop there. We'd be lying if we said we hadn't immediately had other thoughts. Who's the shooter? What were his motives? What can we do to stop this kind of tragedy? These are valid questions. Using facts and figures and our woven together experiences, we're trying to answer these questions.
We can spout numbers. We can passionately, and even respectfully present our argument. But we aren't going to get anywhere by proceeding from this tragedy using knowledge and experience alone. Facing conflict without love gets us nowhere, if it doesn't take us backward.
We can try to explain this tragedy, but it's incomprehensible. Unspeakable tragedies, as much as we hate to admit it, to a high degree are unavoidable. This brokenness that causes people to commit such horror, and the brokenness we're left with thereafter requires something more than anything of us can think up or enforce. We really are nothing and have nowhere to go without love. There are still so many out there that don't know that. This is the biggest tragedy of all.
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”