An optimistic van hosting a blood drive in a grocery store parking lot called out to me as I passed by in my Subaru; at the same time, I listened to the frantic voices of reporters on the radio as they provided moment-by-moment updates on the shooting in San Bernardino, California. Simultaneously, a call for the gift of blood mingles with the cry of innocent bloodshed. Blood crying out for justice, blood crying out for answers. Blood in California, blood in Paris, blood in Charleston...Blood in every corner of the world.
We hear daily stories of violence, of hatred, of evil. While violence is not a new thing, each life is valuable, making every fresh loss feel as if we've heard about it for the first time.
Listening to the unfolding of this shooting in San Bernardino, a hollow pit burrowed its way deep into my stomach. When I think about all the evil in the world, the temptation is to slip into despair. For many of you who have experienced tragedy, you know that there often are no words to alleviate the pain. Advice-giving, telling you that we understand, offering up religious platitudes - this is not helpful. So how do we adequately express the grief, the agony, the horror?
What is the appropriate response to such pain?
Two thousand years ago, another major bloodbath against innocent babes occurred. The second chapter in the book of Matthew (found in the New Testament of the Bible) details the story of a king named Herod who ordered the slaughter of little boys in the region surrounding Bethlehem. Infants, toddlers - all boys - two years and younger - put to death by soldiers. Rightly so, a lament is lifted up. The record is as follows:
A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more. (ESV)
Rather than offer up plausible solutions, it seems that making room for grief is the most appropriate response that I can offer up on behalf of yesterday's blood.
San Bernardino, I lament for the loss of life. For the terror. For the loss of innocence. As a member of the human race, I confess that I am prone to anger. I am prone to selfishness. I am prone to pride, to arrogance, to hatred in my heart. I cry out for justice on your behalf.
Today I make room for grief.
If I only make room for grief, then I will be consumed with despair. Along with lamenting, I must also choose to hope. Not hope in how good people are or hope that there will be no more killing. No, the only true words of hope I cling to were written a long time ago:
...Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 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 21:3-4 (ESV)
These words don't mean that the tragic events we experience are any less tragic. On the contrary, the more we love, the more opportunity we have to be wounded. What these words do mean to me is that one day, there will be an end to the shedding of blood. No more bombings, no more shootings, no more abuse. No more evil.
Today as I make room for grief, I also make room for hope.
Thinking of San Bernardino today, rather than ramble on, I offer up a simple lament:
A Lament for San Bernardino
Red. Blood red. The crimson blood cries out. The blood screams for justice and asks, "Why?"
How long, O Lord? How long must we wait? How long?
I lift my voice, my one and only voice and say, "Return."
You came long ago. You brought Light into the darkness, and now we wait again.
I wait in expectancy. Wait for the wrong to be made right.
Emmanuel, God with us. I cry out for the second coming. I cry out for justice. I cry out for mercy.
Written by Heidi Sadler. © 2015 All Rights Reserved. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.