Sunday mornings are a reprieve for me. I walk in, typically greeting a few friends along the way — some greetings shorter than others, recognizing we each pushed the time to the max hoping not to be late. But I sit, relax, and intentionally attempt to throw off all the thoughts, troubles, and to-do lists on my brain and submit them to someone bigger than me. I try to center myself and be still, preparing for the rest of the week.
That’s really the bottom line for me. Going to church — and not like there’s any rule somewhere that we all have to go to the same church every Sunday at 9:30 or whatever a.m. — but going to church and intentionally resting and refocusing is the recognition that there actually is someone bigger than me. I don’t always get it. I don’t understand everything there is to know. But recognizing the reality of God is the start to wisdom and growth. I need that. Without that recognition — or, in other words, with the ulterior assumption that any of us could possibly be on par with God’s wisdom, omniscience, or goodness — what’s right and moral in this world becomes ambiguous; what’s right and moral evolves based on individual experience.
While I’ve never been a “rule follower” (yes, just ask my parents), there is no “rule” that says we have to be in church on Sunday mornings. I go not because I follow a rule; I go because it centers me. It helps me refocus. It helps me not put “me” in the center of my world and thinking.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to go attempt to refocus — and then have the epitome of evil show up.
On Sunday, a man armed most with evil walked into a church building that held about 50 people in a Texas town of only a few hundred. Most churchgoers were injured; 26 died. One survivor, gut-wrenchingly, lost his pregnant wife, three of his children, and his parents, with two more of his children in critical condition at the time of this writing.
At this time it’s too early to know all the details. In fact, with the shooter’s death, we may never know all… what was in the head of the gunman? … how long was this planned? … why here? … why now? … what set him off? … was he ill? All are questions we will attempt to find an answer to in the days ahead; all are also questions we may never answer with certainty.
But I can’t get past that here in a weekend gathering, a setting that occurs in all-sized towns across the country in which people come to rest and refocus — where the people recognize that “we” are not all there is — that someone would come blow up the deep sincerity and serenity of that moment. In essence, evil pierced the peace.
That grieves me.
Regardless of the unknown answers, regardless of the shooter’s potential mental illness, this killing of the innocent is the manifestation of some form of evil. I don’t say that angrily. I say it soberly… with tears in my eyes and a pit in my stomach. Murder is evil. That grieves me.
This is a moment, friends, in which we could come together. We could each bow down, refocus, and recognize that there must be something or someone bigger than us.
We are heartbroken about the evil. We are heartbroken about the gruesome deaths. We gasp at the pics of the children whose lives were tragically ended. “Why?! Why did this happen??”
And in those heart-wrenching questions, we have the potential to together submit ourselves to the only one or thing that has the answers — because friends, the reality is that sometimes life on this planet simply doesn’t make sense.
What do we do when it doesn’t make sense? For me, it serves as an intentional return to submitting to someone wiser than me. When we fail to recognize that we have often mixed up the positioning — meaning we put any of us on par with the wisdom and righteousness of God — conflict ensues.
And then — as if on some sort of enemy’s cue — we fight.
We fight. We don’t solve. We don’t grieve. We don’t seek to understand. We don’t say, “Lord, help me. Help us all. Help those so hurt by this horrific tragedy.” We instead fight.
And with all due respect to each of us — as sometimes we are part of the problem — myself included — that fighting grieves me even more.
God be with the victims and families in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Be in small town America. Be in our big towns. Be with each of us, too.