As I sit this morning praying for the young men and women at The University of Texas at Austin who are sitting in grief and fear of the fatal stabbing yesterday, I am overwhelmed with the grief and loss of the senseless violence that has invaded our lives. I am overwhelmed with grief for Harrison Brown’s family, for the students who tended his wounds and shared his last breath, for the students who were wounded, and for the entire campus that responded to the horrific chaos and awaken to resume another day at school. While it is another day for most of us, it is most definitely NOT just another day for them.
Oh, and, while some don’t want to consider it, I also sit in grief for Kendrex White. Yes, as much as I wish I didn’t want to, I grieve for him and for his family and community, too. The way I see it, the world has failed him, too.
I can’t sit here without responding to this in some way. I want to share words of wisdom that will bring comfort, but I am at a loss. I can’t promise their safety. I can’t answer their questions. I can’t make it better with Tiff’s Treats. If I was there with them, a hug might be comforting for the moment, but it would only be a short comfort as the chaos would quickly return and expose the violence that cannot be deleted from their memory. At a time students should be winding down and celebrating their accomplishments, they have been thrown into chaos.
I share their bewilderment and their grief. And, there are a lot of feelings waiting on the words to come.
What do I know?
Yesterday at UT Austin, someone hated their life enough kill another person. Someone was filled with so much hate, he took another life. In other places yesterday criminals stole, vandalized, raped, violated, and abused because there was enough hate within them to strike someone else or something else. It doesn’t matter race, gender, sexual orientation or social class, when crime happens, it comes from a place of hate. The way I see it, all crimes are hate crimes. They come from a place of hate. This is what I know.
So the question I ask is, “Where is God in this”?
I could go to divine providence that my son skipped class yesterday and was not by Gregory Gym when the stabbings happened. But that is just happenstance. (BTW, your mom has mixed feelings about you skipping class.)
I could go to the dreadful theology that God took his angel Harrison from this earth too soon. While it helps us make sense of a senseless act, it is absolutely NOT true.
I could go to turn the other cheek teaching which holds water IF your response comes from a place of unconditional love. But, I am willing to bet that 99.99% of us do not fit in this category. Quakers own this one.
So, what do I know?
I know that any response to this horrific, senseless chaotic act that comes from a place of fear, anger, or hate will not be of God. Any impulsive response that is not from a place of love is not of God. It is hate responding to hate. It is that judging place within me rearing its ugly head of defense from my own place of woundedness.
So what do I do?
I seek help from God. I listen in a place of stillness away from the chaos. I seek to hear and to respond to the Fruit of the Spirit: responding in love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. I seek forgiveness. And, as much as it pains me to wait for these signs of the Holy to be present, I wait for the love to be raised from within me to respond with God. This is the only way I can make sense of this. And, I believe this is the only way we can stop the senseless violence that is consuming our world.
Of course, it is easy for those of us sitting in cities and places outside of the violence to say this. That I know. Those who are in the midst of the violence and chaos will find this most difficult and perhaps not possible. Which is exactly why we turn to God to give us the peace that passes all understanding, to give us joy in midst of our mourning, to give us strength in the impossible.
I also know this. No response is not appropriate. If I go un affected by this incident, then I am not with God. I know that creation comes from chaos. I know that if I don’t respond it stays chaos. I know if I do respond, the new creation, the new thing has a chance for life.
More news is emerging today. More violence on campus.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
May we all choose love and life.
With a grateful heart,
(c) 2017 Rev. Lil Smith