Updated: May 18, 2020
This past week has been a tough week in the wake of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Unfortunately, it’s the kind of week we’ve almost become accustomed to. We all seem to know how this goes. We hear of the tragedy; we become heartbroken and angry; the debates begin about the root cause of these tragedies and what should be done; people take sides and call names; then we begin to move on and nothing changes. And at some point, it just becomes exhausting to go through this process again.
I admit that when I heard the news, I didn’t want to delve too deep at first. I didn’t want to read the reports. I didn’t want to enter the debates. I didn’t want to call or write my elected officials pleading for action again. I didn’t want to grieve another time. It just all feels so hopeless and infuriating sometimes.
But I knew that I couldn’t ignore it because although this didn’t happen to me or my people, tragedy struck somewhere. Lives were ended. Family and friends mourn the loss of their loved ones. The survivors will deal with the effects of the trauma for years to come. We cannot ignore the pain of others or the brokenness that abounds in our world.
So I began to read the reports and the different perspectives on the issue, and as I began to feel the anger and frustration boil up, I felt God calling me to make time to lament.
Lament – to mourn deeply – that’s not something that our culture likes to take the time to do. It’s so much easier to ignore. It’s easier to place blame. It’s easier to argue. It’s easier to believe that we know what will fix the situation. But to spend time lamenting… Who wants to mourn, especially when it’s not our own personal tragedy? Who wants to layer the grief of other people’s loss on top of the grief that we already bear in our own lives? Who wants to admit that the problems are much more complex than the answers we have? Who wants to feel helpless and hopeless?
But lament is a necessary element when we are faced with tragedy, evil, or brokenness. Lament reminds of us the humanity of the issue. It reminds us that it’s not just an issue or a political debate. It reminds us that there are people whose lives have been flipped upside down, people who are in despair, people who will be dealing with the pain of loss long after we stop debating about what could have been done.
Lament can unite us. We may have different opinions about what the root problem is and how it can be solved, but if we take the time to grieve and to listen to others’ grief, we might be able to find some common ground. We might recognize that we have the same fears and desires deep down. We might see that we need each other.
Lament reminds us that this problem is bigger than us. When we see examples of lament in the Bible, it is coupled with crying out to God. In lament, we pour out our hearts to God. We let ourselves feel the depth of the despair. We recognize that we do not hold all the answers, nor are we able to solve the problems on our own. We get to a point of recognizing that we need God to intervene, that we have no hope beside him, that we need him to lead us out of this.
As we lament and cry out to God, then we allow God to restore our hope. We don’t remain dormant in the despair but allow God to lead us into action. That action might look different for each person because a complex issue doesn’t require just one solution, but we can each play our part to bring more of God’s kingdom to earth.
But before we get there, let’s take time to lament…
I lament that 17 children and adults were killed at school, a place that used to feel safe. I try to imagine myself in the shoes of those students seeing a gun pointed at them, hearing the shots being fired, fleeing for their lives, hiding in closets in their classrooms, huddling next to their classmates and teachers, hoping that no bullets fly in their direction, having to walk past the dead bodies of their friends once it’s finally all over.
I lament that the parents of 3,000 students had to receive the phone calls and texts alerting them that there was an active shooter at their kids’ school. I think about the panic they experienced as they rushed to the school, knowing there was nothing they could do to protect their children in those moments. How long must those hours have felt as they waited to see if their children would show up at the designated meeting location.
I lament that the parents of 14 students and families of 3 teachers had to hear the news that their loved ones were among the dead. I pray God’s love, peace, and strength over them as they wake up each morning hoping it was all a nightmare, as they walk past the empty bedrooms and remember the dreams that will never be fulfilled, and as they figure out how to keep living when a piece of their heart will forever be missing.
I lament that the teachers, like my husband, who already work so hard every day – to educate their students, manage a classroom, accommodate the learning styles of 30+ different individuals at a time, emotionally invest in the ones who are struggling, and deal with discipline issues – now also have to feel the weight of protecting and defending the lives of those students.
I lament that a young man is so broken that he would get to the point of taking the lives of so many others with no remorse. While he is fully responsible for his actions, it’s clear that trauma and mental illness have taken their toll on him. What depth of pain would lead a person to commit such an act?
I lament that everyday that my baby girl goes to school and my husband goes to work, there is a fear that this could happen to them. And everyday that they come home and I feel relief that they are safe, I also have to remember that someone else’s loved one wasn’t ok. Some children won’t ever walk back through their front doors.
I lament that we live in a country that is so fractured that we are left with heated debates but no actual solutions or change. We seem more interested in proving others wrong than listening and working together. While we continue to argue, more and more of our children are losing their lives in a place that should be safe.
God, we cry out to you. We live in a broken world. We recognize our need for you and know that our only hope is in you. May your kingdom come, your will be done. May you intervene, and may you lead us to participate with you in the work of mending this broken world.
My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver [us]; save [us] because of your unfailing love. – Psalm 6:3-4