Originally posted on September 13, 2019
My previous post for “What then shall we do” on the day after the shooting in Odessa had a tone of exasperation, with more than a touch of frustration and desperation. And in my compulsion to withdraw into myself I was reminded of the parable of the little boy and the starfish: a man saw a small boy walking on the beach where hundreds and hundreds of starfish were washing ashore. The boy was picking them up one at a time and throwing them back in deeper water. It’s seemed a hopeless task and so the man said to the boy, “there is so many of them and more keep washing up. You can’t save them all so why waste your efforts.” The boy picked up another starfish and as he tossed it back to safety said, “maybe I can’t get to all of them, but what I’m doing matters to this one.”
I can’t save the world and neither can you. But it’s going to be ok because saving the world isn’t our job. That’s God’s thing to do, in God’s way, in God’s time. We are called by Jesus to do things that point to God and that reveal the God of love to the world. I can’t fix you and you can’t fix me but together with God we can all become more and more like Jesus every day. We can learn so see the world as Jesus does and respond with compassion. And it is worth it and it matters.
Last evening I went to a Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events training. It was so difficult to sit through two hours of being told how dangerous and unpredictable this world is. But the take-away was that we can all do something. We don’t have to passively accept that this is the way things are. We talked about how fear can paralyze us in the moment so we don’t respond and ways we can overcome that. The most important thing to do is to think it through ahead of time. Although we can’t predict what exactly will happen we can prepare by thinking through our possible actions so that we able to respond and not just react.
And so as I do the hard work of helping churches in my diocese, and my parish especially, prepare for the possibility of such an event I am reminded how important this work of helping all of us become more compassionate really is. Every preparedness plan involves both prevention and recovery. I believe that by becoming more compassionate we can prevent violence and that we can help those who experience violence to recover. It is steady, continuous, and intentional work. It is the life Jesus calls us to live, a life of ongoing soul development as we follow him.
When we pray ‘God help’ we must also pray ‘God show me what is mine to do in this situation.’ And we must be willing to do it. Christianity is an active faith, an incarnational faith. God is alive in us working through us to make it on earth as it is on heaven. All that we think, say, and do is to reflect the God we serve. Spend time in stillness and silence with God asking “what is mine to do to help make the world better?” And then do it. Together with God’s help we can shine the light of the loving, liberating, and life-giving God into the darkest corners of this world.
“Lord God, shape and form our hearts and minds so that we can be like the boy with the starfish. Prepare us to do what is ours to do to shine your light in the darkness and give us the strength and courage to do it. Amen.”