I drove home from church yesterday, ashes smeared across my forehead, listening to two of the students from Parkland, FL describe how they survived the shooting. As I passed the middle school where Ginny will attend, I wondered what I would say – to her, to you, to God.
I thought of how I prepared to talk to the youth of the first church I served, almost twenty years ago, in the face of the Columbine massacre. I remembered talking with college students after Virginia Tech. And how a group of parents of young children gathered not so long ago to figure out how to answer our children’s questions after Sandy Hook. I wondered if I had run out of words – and then remembered that I never had them in the first place. Words do not exist for this.
The words “you’re in our thoughts and prayers” always sound hollow – if not flat-out wrong – without corresponding action. When I pray “How long, O Lord?” I always hear God asking the same question directed to me.
At a loss for words myself, I welcomed one of your emails with a post by Scott Black Johnston, pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.
I wish politicians would tell me what they are praying about when these acts of terrible violence rip through our world. Why? Because prayer — real prayer, honest prayer — always commits us to being about God’s work in this world. And we all know, deep in our hearts, that gun violence is something God wants us to change.
Instead of abandoning prayer, let’s double-down. Let’s pray like crazy. And let’s hold our leaders accountable for their words. Let’s ask them: “What are you praying?”
Scott went on to get specific in his prayer; I hope you’ll click this link and read all of what he said.
Tonight the ashes are gone, yet I’m thinking of students who faced their mortality cowering under their seats, as well as those returned to dust all too soon. I want to pray like crazy. And to figure out how to hold legislators’ feet to the fire. And continue to encourage a ban on assault weapons. And to hope that our nation will learn to treasure our children more than our guns – all those things.
This Lent, may we as a culture learn give up life as we know it – especially the death-dealing grip of our guns.
Grace and peace to you and for all of God’s children,