When the Heart Cries

When the Heart Cries

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These past weeks have brought us news of one tragedy after another. Tragedies, however they strike, leave us shattered. We ask the questions of why. We wonder how God can let such terrible things happen to people we love and care about. We wonder at the aftermath of a truck rolling into a crowd in Nice France and the devastation left behind. We worry about the country of Turkey and the consequences for an average person after an attempted coup. Closer to home, our cities are filled with unrest. A long hot summer looms ahead. Police fear for their lives after a second sniper attacks. Our system of law and justice becomes more fragile. In our personal lives heartaches rip the heart in two.

“Where is God anyway?” It comes, that question, when life deals us a bitter blow. “Why? Why didn’t God stop the drunk driver who killed my friend. . . .Or the spread of cancer in my child . . . why didn’t God make my marriage work, when I prayed so hard?” “Why did my child get mixed up in drugs?” “We loved each other, why did my spouse die so young?” Would that there were easy answers to these difficult questions. The more I experience of life, the more convinced I am that there are no easy answers to life’s griefs, disappointments, and sorrows. I am equally convinced that God cares, that God is with us in each and every tragedy, that God does not leave us comfortless. Believing that and feeling that are, of course, two entirely different situations.

My oldest son was just shy of three years old when I discovered that he was gone. In the distance I saw him riding on his little red tractor. Gathering up my 18-month-old son, I began the chase. The problem was, I was seven months’ pregnant. With the added weight of my second son, I couldn’t run faster than my older son was scooting. The best I was able to do was to keep him in sight. The race had gone on for about three blocks when I saw him heading for the freeway. There wasn’t much else to do, but put my 18-month-old son on a corner, tell him to “stay,” and with less baggage go after his brother. I remember how my younger son started to cry. I’m sure he felt that I was deserting him. What he didn’t know was how much he was in my thoughts, as I pursued his brother. He had no concept of how hard it was for me to leave him there. He didn’t understand that I didn’t want him left by himself, even for a few minutes. Nor, could he know how very worried I was about him. He didn’t know that my heart was aching for him.

What we believe in faith is that some day we will understand this life with all of its unfairness. To say that it is God’s will a child dies of cancer, a drunk driver kills someone, a marriage fails or that anyone gets messed up in drugs seems to me blasphemy. It’s equally evident that God doesn’t protect us from life’s hurts. I once heard the theologian Henri Nouwen say, “The good news of the Gospel is not that God has come to take our pain away, but that God has come to be with us in it.” The apostle Paul says it another way, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38,39)

No, I don’t have the answers for “Why.” But this I know, God sticks by us, in whatever place we find ourselves in. May that be your strength and your hope.

Fear that Divides

I can’t say just how sick I felt yesterday when I scanned this morning news and discovered that a traffic stop in a nearby suburb ended in the death of Philando Castile. His death, recorded live on Facebook, was quickly sent viral around the world. In the video his girlfriend both defends and explains his actions to the policeman who continues to have a gun pointed inside the car.

I wanted to believe that stuff like this happens in other parts of the country. I know too many good police officers to believe that what happened this week in Minnesota is the norm. Fear – Fear of the other – Fear of a person who is different – Fear of another’s intentions can twist our sense of reality. We see the world with a lens corrupted and shaped by our fears. The innocent gesture of Philando Castile to reach for his wallet, is perceived as a threat once the officer learns he has a permit to carry a weapon. What ought to have been a simple traffic stop and a warning ticket for a broken taillight escalates when fear grabs hold of a mind. Our fears remove us from our common humanity. We no longer see the person in front of us. We see instead a threatening enemy.

Neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean came up with the term Reptilian Brain to explain the emotional, unreasoned reaction we have to a perceived threat. It is the instinctive response which can do great harm . . . the one which reason would overrule, were we to give our mind enough time to process a situation. In the heat of the moment our minds don’t always respond wisely or well.

By the end of the day another tragedy was unfolding. A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas turned deadly when a sniper targeted police officers. He especially wanted to kill white police officers. Five officers died, seven were wounded.
Sometimes, I wonder how we got to this place. Other times I wonder how I could have been so naive as to think we had moved beyond the civil rights era in race relations. What I am certain of is our need as a nation to heal. We need to see all of our neighbors as our brothers and sisters.

When asked the greatest commandment, Jesus responded by saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) Jesus didn’t leave anyone out. He was referring to people of every race, creed and orientation . . . including people who get stopped because of a bad taillight, and police providing security at a Black Lives Matter rally. As Christians we have the responsibility of being people who build bridges of understanding. We have the duty to see all our neighbors as God’s children.