It’s been awhile since we sat together with a cup of coffee. Can I start us off today with a story?
At one of the parish’s I’ve served that had a school, I would go and read to the preschool classes each week. This particular day I was in the three year-old-room and we were sitting on the floor (soooo much easier to get off the floor in those days) in the reading circle when an announcement came over the intercom. Nothing scary, just a normal sounding announcement about something the teachers needed to bring to the office. Immediately the teacher and every one of these precious little humans stood without saying a word and began moving quickly to the corner and huddling down. The teacher motioned for me to follow, with her finger on her lips in a silent ‘shhh’ as she turned out the lights and locked the door. Confused, I did as requested and as I got to her she whispered in my ear ‘it’s a drill, an intruder drill” and she and I squatted down and circled our arms around the children who remained motionless and silent. And when the all-clear announcement came the children returned to the reading circle AS IF THIS WERE JUST A NORMAL DAY. I finished the story, said goodbye, and left the room as they went to their tables for snack time.
As I walked into the church office, I looked at the Parish Administrator and burst into tears. “That was normal for them, they knew exactly what to do,” I sobbed. She looked very confused (we didn’t hear the school announcements in the church office, only the fire alarm bell) and in between sobs I told her what happened. No child should have to live in a world where intruder drills are necessary.
In my role as a Disaster Preparedness and Response coordinator, I’ve done active shooter training and drills with parishes and clergy. And as I’ve witnessed the looks of fear and confusion on the faces of grown-ups as we talk about someone combing in with a gun, I think of that day with the three year olds. No child of God, regardless of age, should have to live in a world where intruder drills are necessary.
And yet we do. And I want to know why we have crafted this world for ourselves? Why has our primary focus been on preventing injury and death WHEN an active shooter appears on school campuses and church grounds rather than preventing the violent act to begin with? Why have we allowed such heinous acts against the immeasurable value of human life to become a normal part of our lives in this country? And I know that these are immensely complicated and complex questions and that there are no simple answers.
And I know that these are the questions Jesus would be asking, that he does ask of us, just as he asked the man at the healing pool, “do you want to be made well.” Just as he spoke to the the men who accused a woman of adultery, “let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.” Just as he spoke with the woman at the well and the woman whose daughter was tormented by a demon and John’s disciples and Nicodemus and Peter and Martha. Life isn’t about the easy way or simplistic answers. Life is complex and complicated and when we choose to follow Jesus we face these questions in the confidence and hope of God’s promise to restore and redeem all things.
We are the instruments God has chosen to work out the divine plan of ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’ We are to bear the image of God in the pain and suffering. And we reveal the Divine Image to others in the way we Love as Jesus loves. So, perhaps, the better question is, “How do we love better?”
By growing our skills in civil discourse so that we can model how to respect others’ views?
By increasing our own knowledge of mental wellness?
By offering our facilities as places of learning for both Civil Discourse and Mental Health Awareness?
By working with our government leaders to craft and enact sensible and safe gun legislation?
By hosting holy conversations about our communal responsibility toward others as our fellow human beings?
By partnering with our local schools and youth clubs as mentors?
By deepening our own spiritual growth so we see more clearly the image of God in all people?
Life isn’t simple questions or simple answers. Loving better is a challenging, lifelong journey, following Jesus for the greater good of all people. What does loving better look like in your community?