Twice recently I have watched with horror the Twitter feed, Facebook status updates and live online reporting of events that exposed the rampant evil in our world: shootings at Clackamas Town Center in Portland; massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Twice have I allowed myself to cry tears of pain, anguish and despair. Twice have I uttered aloud, "Lord have mercy." Innumerable times have I sought words to respond.
My pastor friend AJ Swoboda concluded: I'm sorry, but if we don't believe evil exists after today, we are a blind people.
It's true. This week we have seen the face of evil, without its usual veil of deception.
The evil this week was also personal. I have shirt-tail connections to both of these places. Portland is where I attend seminary, and often I have visited Clackamas Town Center during my Face-to-Face time in Portland each semester. Newtown is just down the road from Danbury where my dad was born, and the school was where my friend's cousin and another friend's granddaughter attend. But these shirt-tail connections aren't the reason for the tears. Not really.
If we're honest, we all have connections to these places and these people. The victims, and yes even the murderers, are part of us. We're in the same clan of humanity. They are -- we are -- all made in the image of God, struggling to muddle through this often difficult, fearful, hurtful existence called life. We have so deviated from the plan and will of God, and evil's ugly presence and reality perplexes, plagues and persecutes us relentlessly.
And we're left reeling. Numb. Horrified. Sickened. Lost.
My Facebook feed since the horrific events has featured an odd mix of prayers and political positions bantered about. Ban guns. Arm teachers. God wasn't there because he's been "banned" from school. This was God's judgment upon our nation.
Diametrically opposed opinions, yes. Yet, each opinion represents shared hope and desire to right the wrongs the kill, maim and attack the innocent. Together we long for answers and solutions. We know in our hearts this isn't how life should be.
We are numb. Horrified. Sickened. Lost. But we shall not be without hope. Darkness has dominated these days. Yet the light of love shines brighter. Propose solutions, yes. But also listen and join hands with those who propose solutions exactly opposite to your own. We cannot, in our attempt to bring resolution, create increased strife, hatred and darkness as that which we long to banish. Our goals are the same. We face -- together -- the same enemy and it is not those with whom we disagree.
Beyond the solutions, be a blindingly brilliant source of light. Banish the darkness in all ways you can, in all places you go, in all relationships you have. Love. Forgive. Smile. Hug. Engage. Demonstrate hope in tangible ways. Let no one be exempt from the reach of your love.
And know that you are not alone in your struggles against darkness and evil. You do not stand alone in your fear, despair and pain. Nor did the innocent victims of this week's events. God -- who calls himself Emmanuel, God With Us -- is indeed with us. He longs to comfort and restore hope in your own heart and in the world. After all, these tragedies are not of him or his will.