I found today extremely sad. Yes, to the point of tears sad. When I turned on the news this morning and heard of the shooting in Las Vegas and then saw some of the footage, I simply found myself in tears. I was in disbelief, as if something like this just shouldn’t be happening. And yet it was. Again. Not that I was the least bit surprised because I wasn’t. Violence is the way of life here in Baltimore and other metropolitan areas but also around the globe, but for whatever reason it just struck me today, as if caught off guard.
I happened to catch a former FBI agent speaking on the broadcast, long before much was known about the shooter, other than the fact that he was a male, age 64. My immediate thought was questioning how someone could reach that age and still harboring so much that he’s willing to take the lives of so many people so callously. But the expert when on to speak about where he shot them from, the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, and the significance of the place of power, atop the people, paradoxically, though, magnifying the powerlessness. I hadn’t thought of that as he tries to get into the mind of this guy. More than 1200 feet separated himself from the crowd below, amplifying the casualty as bullets reigned down.
More times I can count I have written on this blog about the God problem we have, and I do still believe that to be true. We find ourselves clinging to so many false gods that have taken the place of God, of mystery, that we find ourselves wandering aimlessly in a darkened world and country. It’s all true if we could be aware enough in our lives to begin to see that we too are a part of the problem, not just the other that we have demonized. Thinking about this guy, though, I began to think, as much as we have a God problem, possibly even more striking is the human problem that exists in this land.
There he was, some 32 floors off the ground and entirely separated from humanity below. Unable to see the trauma being inflicted. Unable to see the tears nor hear the screams that we’ve had to listen to repetitively through the media. Now, granted, these are all signs of someone who was experiencing severe psychological problems in his life, seeming to be entirely separated from humanity. However, the slow process of attaching ourselves to our gods has a similar impact on our own lives.
Think about it. The more the demand for certainty in our lives and the attachment to the illusion of “being right”, the less capable we have become of empathizing and sympathizing with our fellow brothers and sisters and a whole lot less space for God. It becomes entirely about having the winning argument, as I’m sure we will witness one again when it comes to the use of guns in our society, and less about the impact so much of what we are doing has upon humanity. The problem is that we cling so tightly to our certainty that our own eyes become clouded from seeing the tears and pain of the other nor hearing the scream and cry for help as pain reigns down and is reigned down by my own inability to love and to walk this journey with the other.
I can never fully put myself in the place of another human being. Their story is their story just as mine is mine. I have suffered greatly in my own life, gradually learning to release the hold of certainty in my own life and through process, trust in faith, in the unseen, in the unknown, making space not only for God but for the other and their story and to hold it as treasure. We have put ourselves in so many losing situations. We cling to our symbols, to our institutions, our belongings, our own lives, as if that’s all that matters. As if that’s all that matters and we can’t care about anything else. We have a human problem and a God problem who ever so mightily is trying to break through our own lives and to free us from ourselves. Ourselves. We cling so tightly and before you know it, we too find ourselves separated from humanity, the humanity of the other and our own, unable to stand with, kneel beside, listen with love, see with care, all because of this distance we have put between ourselves, creating a tension, that, although painful, hopefully leads one day to a new day, a new beginning, a re-creation of our humanity.
It’s a sad day. It’s been sad days, weeks, months, years, of being torn apart by so much that just doesn’t matter and yet we cling. We cling to our ideology. We cling to our certainty. We cling to a flag. We cling to a nation that was. We cling to our guns. We cling to our rights. We cling. It’s what we humans often do best, cling. Somehow thinking we can’t live without any of it. Somehow thinking that it’s eternal and never-changing. We cling to our false gods that over time divide, leaving a gaping hole of pain in the soul of me, you, and a nation, that can only be filled with a God who’s love surpasses all and fulfills all, a God so often unseen and yet so present, gently opening our eyes and hearts to the other and their story. A story you don’t know. A story we mustn’t judge. A story that is unfolding. A story we must learn to care about in order to understand and in order to close the gap of our own humanity. It’s the story of the Christ.
It’s was an extremely sad day but a day in which we are once again invited to enter into the mystery of our own lives, feel the pain of the other, and together we learn to find true freedom from what binds and hurts our hearts and souls as a nation because in the end the story is the same. It’s a sad day when we can no longer weep for all humanity who suffers because of our inability to put ourselves in their place beyond our symbols and institutions. The more I am freed of my own gods of judgment, condemnation, and fear, I find myself trusting in all I can trust in, a God who doesn’t reign bullets nor insults down upon humanity but rather love, understanding, and forgiveness.