Last week, after the tragedy in Santa Fe, I found myself incredibly weary. Unlike my friend Coby, I was not planning to spend Monday on a kayak. That is not sabbath or rest for me. I instead devoted Monday to writing and reconnecting with God. At 10:45am, I was at my computer typing and these were the words on my screen:
We live 16 miles from Santa Fe High School. Our communities cross many lines of connection. I have written letters and advocated and marched about gun violence after many of the horrific school shootings of the past 19 years. I was teaching during Columbine, and I will never forget the fear. But somehow, this one, was like a punch in my momma gut like no other.
At 11:03, Mail alerted me of an email from my 7th grader’s school and I clicked on it:
This morning a student reported to an Assistant Principalthat another student had brought a weapon to school. The student was found in possession of an unloaded handgun and was immediately arrested by the Galveston County Sheriff Liaison Officer stationed at the campus. I realize this news is unsettling in light of recent events. School is continuing as scheduled today.
In that moment, I knew very little. But, I knew that nothing was continuing as scheduled. Nothing. My “schedule” became a 48-hour lament and confession and time of self-reflection. There were tears and prayers and lots of questions.
The answers were clear to questions like:
Was I resentful? Selfish? Afraid? YES. All of the above.
The harder questions, like “Did I promptly admit when I was wrong today?” and “Was I kind and loving towards all?” – these took days to face. It took time for me to tune my Spirit back to a place where I could answer truthfully about my thoughts and actions. I even spent about 24 hours this week wanting to teach from the place of hurt and lament rather than the pattern and rhythm of discipline.
Because I have things to say.
Things that matter.
But let me tell you about the miracle. The miracle of discipline is that self-reflection is an established foundational cornerstone of my everyday life. And sure, there are days when I need to lament and hurt and feel and not have it all worked out. But what in years past would have taken me down a path of resentment and retribution and a fear rollercoaster of emotional numbing proportion, instead became a week of prayer and confession to my partin this reality. And a call to action.
Let me share a word from the prophet Jeremiah, Chapter 15:
Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?
You are to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails.
Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman."
Do you see it?
This was my week.
Monday and Tuesday:
Why? Where are you? We are literally dying, God?
“Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable?”
Wednesday: After some quality self-reflection and an opportunity to be still and ask hard questions
“If you repent, I will restore you”
Thursday and Friday: as I committed to living a changed life
“if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.”
There is not one thing in my humanity that naturally moves me from fear and anger to peace and hope. Not one thing. Only when I do the hard work of training my heart and mind and soul to hear from and trust God, can I find myself in a place to utter worthy words.
The process of admitting my shortcomings, my failure, my desperate hard heart is the path to reconciliation and hope. And in my experience, that cannot happen without the intentional step of choosing. CHOOSING to look at the ways that we separate ourselves from God’s best for creation.
Do I have an immediate fix for school shootings and senseless violence? NO
Can I make the immediate changes that are necessary to help my kids feel safe? Not always
But can I show them how to better handle their anxiety and loneliness and hurt? You bet I can.
I can sit still and listen for something other than the pop culture response.
I can choose to ask for wisdom in my life.
I can modela changed life – what it looks like to seek guidance and confess my mistakes.
And, I can act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with all that I am so that when I have weeks like this, my pattern of practice is so ingrained that my mind does not have to ‘say what’s next?’ Instead, my soul has the well-worn discipline to continually long to journey towards the heart and the will of God. That’s why I believe in spiritual practices and disciples. Because left on my own, I’m a hopeless case. And when I practice the disciplines, I know that God will meet me there.
Let me show you a little evidence of that. Friday night, I was tired. Again on Friday morning, I dropped my daughter at school and prayed and breathed. About 9:20am my phone alerted me to a shooting at a middle school in Indiana. Thankfully, I had already planned to pick Ally up at 10:30am after her exam. Even with my chickens in my care, we had a long day ahead.
Some great things. Some super challenging things. At 5:30 that night, I was driving back from Houston. As we drove the bypass from the tollway to I-45, a bright, clear rainbow was covering the Bay Area.
As we drove closer, this came into view.
I know that you cannot tell from the picture, but from my view, one rainbow looked to be touching League City and the other was touching the area around Santa Fe.
God met me there.
In the Dick’s Sporting Goods parking lot.
Through a Biblical image of promise.
And God longs to meet you, too.
Wherever you may be today.