I had a bad dream last night.
And the vividness, the images, the tragedy, the loss, and the horror of it all jolted me awake. And I could still see it and feel in my chest. In my heart, deep in my soul. A tightness and terror. My mind kept reliving it, and reliving it, and crying out: No fair! It could have been prevented! Why?! I just want this memory to go away.
But it was just a dream. It wasn’t about children or shooters. It wasn’t about the loss of a child, injustice, meanness, hatred, or judgment. It was just a bad dream. And the tragedy within it was just a brutal accident. But in the real world…
Far too many people woke up realizing they hadn’t been dreaming. The sights and sounds and terrible images were real. The overwhelming emotions wouldn’t subside after a cup of coffee and morning walk. The horror was real. The loss was real. There were no answers to satisfy or easy words to explain.
I grew up in Nashville. I went to school in Nashville. Nashville has seen much tragedy in the last few years. Nashville is sound and solid and strong, but right now, like the rest of the world…Nashville is broken.
Broken homes, broken dreams, broken brains, broken beliefs and relationships and hopes. Broken ideas, directions, and expectations that no politician or policy will ever be able to repair. And every time we grow comfortable or complacent or think it can’t get worse…it gets worse. More bad news, unimaginable tragedy and terror. The news, the accusations, the psychologists, crime experts, and politicians…what are we to believe?
I believe in Jesus. I also believe Jesus. That is, what He said, what He did, what He promised, what He promised He will do. He worked miracles and said many good things. He also said many hard things. But what is the hardest thing He ever said? The hardest thing to grasp and live out and consistently follow?
Is it: love others as you love yourself? Be perfect as your Father is perfect? Take up your cross and follow me? Is it: Forgive? For me, right now…in the midst of the brokenness of the world, the hatred, confusion, pain, blame, loss, accusation, and no human answer or relief in sight…I believe the hardest is: let not your heart be troubled. But there’s more. This…
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.Jesus, John 14:27
Peace? Untroubled and fearless hearts? But how? What do we do with the emotions we can’t control and the physical reactions, the chest tightness and anger and hurt that threaten to overwhelm? What would Jesus do?
Jesus wept. -John 11:35
He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. -Mark 6:34
I don’t pretend to have an answer. But I do know that the answer is never hate or revenge. It’s not to blame or shame parents, administrators, the police, or the governor. It’s not even gun control, more policies, or bigger security guards.
I know people on both sides of this particular tragedy. The heartbroken but faith-filled family of one of the lost children. And people who loved and lived life with the shooter and her family. A family that could be any family, watching their adult child descend into deception and despair. Acting out the unimaginable and unexplainable.
I also know this: Hate is hard. It is destructive and deadly and not something we are meant to bear. Hate never rights wrongs, brings justice, or heals hurting hearts. Hate prevents healing and ultimately hardens hearts. Instead, may we…
Weep with those who weep. Sit in the ashes and be present with those who mourn. Offer a cool drink of water, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on. Maybe even offer them the Shepherd. The One who offers peace when we don’t understand, hope when all seems lost, and a promise that someday all will be made right and new and fair.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.Revelation 21:4
Maybe we need to combine the Scriptures…not change the Word. But melt them in one big pot of hope and truth and apply them to our searching, wounded hearts:
Let not your heart be troubled. Let not your heart always assume the worst. Let not your heart be fearful. Let your heart not lose hope and faith. Let not your heart be filled with hate. Let not your heart refuse to forgive. But let your heart love and pray and seek and forgive and speak words of hope and love and truth and mercy and kindness to others.
…that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 1 Thess 4:13