In a meeting with strangers, Thursday night, the question was asked, “Who gets stressed?” We all knowingly chuckled. We ALL get stressed.
The leader asked, “What stresses you?” Work. Family. Relationships. Health. Money.
In my head, I was screaming, “WHAT STRESSES ME? SEVENTEEN STUDENTS AND FACULTY WERE SLAUGHTERED TWO WEEKS AGO IN A LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL! INSTITUTIONS MEANT TO PROTECT US FAILED! A TROUBLED KID, REPEATEDLY SHOWING SIGNS OF MENTAL ILLNESS, LEGALLY PURCHASED AN ASSAULT-STYLE RIFLE, WITH THE EXPRESSED INTENT OF COMMITTING MASS MURDER! OUR WHOLE COMMUNITY IS TRAUMATIZED! WHAT STRESSES ME? ARE YOU JOKING?”
But, I never said a word, out loud. I smiled and nodded. “Yes. Work, family, and money stress me too.”
I know this sounds terribly judgmental – please, forgive me. As I listened to our trite examples of stress, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Have we forgotten what JUST happened? Or, are we just being polite? Or, is it too painful to say out loud? Are others inwardly shouting, as I am? Or, has everyone else moved on?”
I know we have to move on, some how. We can’t wallow in this forever. The students have gone back to school. Businesses are open. Teams are playing sports. New stories are making the headlines.
But, I can’t “move on.” Though I wasn’t directly affected by this tragedy, this tragedy has deeply affected me. I’m functioning, fairly normally, I think. But, my soul is troubled. I’m wrestling with questions I’ve not really wrestled with before, and I can’t find satisfactory answers. My heart hurts, a lot. My prayers have devolved into angry rants. I’m listening, but not hearing.
My struggle is not nearly as significant as the MSD families who lost loved ones, or the students who witnessed horrors, or the parents who now fear their children’s safety, or the faculty and staff who, somehow, must pick up the pieces and make something of the remaining academic year.
Perhaps I’m struggling because I’m supposed to speak for God. After all, that’s my job. That is what I’m paid to do. I’m supposed to know why God allows tragedies to happen. No. I take that back. I’m supposed to know why God allowed THIS tragedy to happen. I’m supposed to know where God was during THIS shooting. I’m supposed to know why a “good” God allowed THIS evil and suffering. I’m supposed to know why God didn’t intervene.
God! Why didn’t you intervene?????
I don’t know. I’ve had answers before, when things happened to strangers, in far away places. But, today, two and a half weeks later, my neat theological explanations aren’t holding water. At least, they’re not for me.
I can’t seem to retreat into comfortable spiritual routines, or familiar theological answers, or even my faith. In fact, it’s my faith that troubles me most. How do I speak for a God I don’t understand? I’ve never presumed to comprehend God. But, that’s different. God is beyond human comprehension. I actually like that. I need that. I’m comfortable with that. This? Not so much.
Though I haven’t lost or abandoned my core spiritual convictions, or turned my back on God, I feel like my foundation has turned to quicksand. Where is my rock? I don’t know where to step and stand with confidence. And, I’m beginning to wonder if “moving on” spiritually will require me to know and speak for God with a lot less certainty. That’s unsettling. To say the least, that stresses me.
Stressed? Yes, I am stressed. But, for none of the normal reasons.
4 thoughts on “Quicksand Spirituality”
Pastor Vance, you are not alone. I am angry. Angry for the loss: of promising futures (all of them), of role models that we badly need, of innocence, of security. Angry at the inaction before and after. Angry at the variations of a theme I keep hearing: “enough is enough”. Like there is an hourglass of grief. It is turned at the time of the tragedy, and when the last grain of sand runs out, the world is to change from black.& white back to color.,.like the Wizard of Oz movie! And yes, I am angry at God (but I know He can handle it; He knows I don’t stay mad forever). So much pain, so many questions, no answers, no way to understand. Sometimes it seems the biggest challenge to faith is simply the human condition.
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts today. If you’ll allow me, I have a few myself. Maybe God didn’t intervene because He’s waiting for us to move. One of your favorite quotes from Pope Francis comes to mind, “A Christian, if he’s not a revolutionary in this time, he is not a Christian”. A revolutionary by definition moves to cause a complete or dramatic change. What change are we as Christians, the church of God, moving toward? I get so tired of being the passive Christian because we don’t want to make waves. It’s almost expected that we make a lot of noise, express our views and move on. Why can’t we be the uprising? Maybe God wants us to be the change. Action that focuses on righting a wrong is a great stress reducer.
Let’s get moving and use our numbers throughout the country to pass the necessary laws to get these assault weapons banned for good. We have to keep this in the forefront of our lawmakers or they will simply take the easy way out, waiting for the next big news story to overshadow this one. There’s just one problem; the families who suffered such a huge loss can never forget. It will play out over and over again in their minds. It’s disgusting how easily this could have and should have been prevented. They cannot work for the necessary change because they are still grieving. We must do it for them. For each of the 17 lives lost, we can be the intervention that says #neveragain. Matthew West wrote a very telling song called ‘Do Something “. It’s one of my favorites because it reminds me of what God expects of each one of us.
If not us, then who If not me and you Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yes it is, come on, If not now, then when Will we see an end To all this pain, oh oh It’s time for us to do something
We are the salt of the earth We are a city on a hill, We’re never gonna change the world By standing still
Like Matthew West says, I want to be the one who stands up and says, “I’m gonna do something”.
We were created to make a difference in the world, in our country, in our community and in the lives of those around us. God is waiting for us to move.
Sent from my iPad
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Thank you for sharing your words of honesty. It is so refreshing to know our Pastor feels anger, hurt and questions our God. I like many others feel the same and my heart hurts. Our community must not ignore the terrible tragedy and get back to “normal”. And what is normal.? As a former educator we need people to speak up, get involved and make changes. Our system is so polical that teachers voices are not heard. And the loss of so many young lives; Tragic! I hope our students of tomorrow can make changes. However; we can’t wait for them. Our community must do something now,
Thank you for being you.
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