Stricken

My dear reader,

I don’t know that I can craft a single coherent sentence right now. And really, what is there to say? Sometimes – truly – there are no words.

Only anguish…

Tears…

Wordless prayers.

Here we are, gutted and grief-stricken yet again. Horrific images from Parkland engulf our screens and assault our senses. They shock and shatter us afresh.

Bloodied bodies and torn hearts.

When will it end?

God only knows.

I hear the calls for stricter gun laws and the cries for crisis management task forces and the pleas for proper diagnosis and treatment of the mentally ill. (And I echo all of those appeals. Please, somebody, do something to stop this madness.)

But deep down I fear it’s going to get worse.

No amount of medication, education, or legislation is going to bring an end to this heinous violence. Even our brightest, bravest and best cannot restrain this kind of evil. The bloodthirsty will remain so. Because they believe it’s their only chance at ____________ (fill in the blank: retaliation, notoriety, vengeance, or sadly, simply… significance).

Maybe he (the accused) suffered a psychotic break after the deaths of both his parents. Or maybe he was bullied. Or traumatized beyond what anyone could bear. Maybe he suffers from delusions or hallucinations. Maybe he was duped into thinking that radicalization would be his redemption. Or maybe his demons overtook him. (Perhaps all of the above.)

I cannot venture to guess how – in just 19 years – this young man grew to be a real-life monster. To plot… and execute. To wreak hell on earth.

It’s a mystery. A million-piece puzzle. A wide-awake nightmare.

Last night, as I listened to high schoolers describe the carnage to various newspeople, I was doubly shocked. The descriptions and images of the bloody massacre were disturbing, to say the least. Especially the streaming videos and Snapchat stories shared in real time during the shooting. Apparently, social media is now the vehicle for sharing selfies… and savagery. (Violence goes viral. And I fear copycats will follow.) But the relative detachment with which some students relayed those horrifying events was almost as unsettling as the graphic images of the crime scene itself.

I’m guessing adolescent psychologists would interpret the students’ matter-of-fact accounts as evidence that they were in a state of shock and hadn’t yet processed what took place in their school just hours before. But I wonder. Have we revisited this terrible place (the aftermath of yet another deadly attack) so many times, that we are becoming collectively desensitized? Do school shootings punctuate our modern history as routinely as hurricanes and wildfires? Is the compulsion to kill becoming as potent as the lure of heroin and hardcore pornography? Countless, chilling questions.

I don’t have any answers. (I’m not even smart enough to identify the full scope of the problem.)

But here’s what I see:

In this world of constant connectivity, people are shockingly and desperately lonely. They may have 1473 followers on Instagram, but they feel utterly alone.

We’ve become a nation of increasingly isolated (and as a result, agitated, anxious, depressed) individuals. One by one, we’re deserting each other. And solitary is no way to live.

All alone can turn… tragic.

We were made to relate, collaborate, comfort, and console each other. We’re meant for camarederie, cooperation, compassion, community.

What we all really want… is to matter. We want our lives to mean something. So we spend them searching for significance.

But the thing is, we already have it.

It’s innate.

Because we were created in the very image of God.

We reflect Trinity: Mind, Body, Spirit.

But without Him, we have no hope of being healthy and whole… physically, mentally, or spiritually.

None.

You don’t have to believe me. But please don’t blame God for our manmade atrocities.

God is infinitely strong, but He’s not a dictator. He doesn’t force His will on us. Instead He lavishly bestows on us freedom, independence and the privilege of personal choice. We get to choose what, where, when, why, and how we do what we do.

And we’ve been up to (little or) no good, since the very beginning.

God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. (Genesis 6:5-6, The Message)

It’s not just the murderers and the monsters that break God’s heart. We all do.

And He loves us still.

…Here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIRV)

The only innocent man who ever lived took the death sentence for the rest of us. Because that’s what love does.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13, NLT)

Jesus loves us. Oh how He loves us.

Every single one of us. From north to south and east to west. From Columbine to Newtown. Orlando to Vegas. San Bernardino to Blacksburg to Parkland. The victims, their families, the first responders and reporters.

And yes… the shooter too.

I’ve read the end of the Book. And from what I can tell, things are gonna get a whole lot worse from here. But the Good News is just that. Good.

For those who trust in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, heaven’s ahead.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and there was no sea anymore. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Now God’s presence is with people, and he will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain, because all the old ways are gone.”

The One who was sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.” (Revelation 21:1-5, NCV)

Some days, I just want to be done. Done with all the hurt and heartache and pain and suffering. Done with my own fear and failings. Done with the hardness of life. And the sting of death.

On those days – today – all I can do is just… cling.

Cling to heaven and hope.

And the One who promises both to those who believe.

Wendy

P.S. In the aftermath of this tragedy, let’s resist the urge to rant or politicize. Be silent. Seek God. Pray. Pull together. Give blood. Donate to the Red Cross. Thank our first responders. And hug our kids… tight.

 

 

 

 

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What Love Isn’t

My dear reader,

If you’re in love – or looking for it – I’m writing to you today. With the hope that maybe I can clear up a few misconceptions.

‘Cause we live in a crazy, confused, capricious world. And we sure as heck can’t rely on its loudest voices to tell us the truth about love. (On Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year.)

Our only hope for anything remotely resembling “happily ever after” is this:

We’ve got to keep the true in true love. (And denounce the dirty, degrading and rapidly mutating lies.)

In any relationship, at any age or stage, under any circumstance…

Here is what love isn’t:

Love isn’t impatient. If someone hurries you or hounds you or pushes you or pressures you to do anything, (s)he loves self, not you.

Love isn’t harsh or unkind or casually cruel. Sarcasm and snarky comments included. (It may seem witty at the time, but hurtful never really is.)

Love isn’t jealous or possessive or aggressive.

It isn’t arrogant either. If (s)he’s full of him(her)self, there’s no room for you.

Love isn’t rude. (Tone and tenor matter. More than most people think.)

Love isn’t demeaning or demanding. If you’re always the one giving in or giving up, get out. Now.

Love isn’t easily angered. Do you really want to be close to someone who might detonate at any moment? Rage-shrapnel is the toughest (and most painful) to remove.

Love isn’t easily offended either. It doesn’t keep a tally of missteps and infractions. The person who says “you owe me” rarely gets paid.

Love isn’t bitter. Forgive early, often, and liberally. (Mercy is a beautiful thing.)

Love isn’t gratified by another’s downfall or degradation. And it isn’t dishonest.

Love isn’t flimsy or fickle.

It isn’t fleeting.

Or unfaithful.

Because love isn’t chemistry. And chemistry isn’t commitment. (And commitment doesn’t have an expiration date.)

Love isn’t quick to assume or accuse. It isn’t cynical, suspicious or slanderous.

Love isn’t insecure.

It isn’t desperate.

Love isn’t controlling. Or clingy.

Love isn’t skittish. It doesn’t jump and run at the slightest pang. Or buckle under pressure. Love sticks around, hunkers down, rolls up its sleeves and gets to work. It digs deep and doesn’t quit. It holds on tight ’til challenges are met, conflicts resolved, obstacles overcome, crises weathered and storms ceased.

Love isn’t readily available (even – especially – on Tinder) and it cannot be store-bought. Though Hallmark, Fannie May (and florists and jewelers everywhere) would suggest otherwise. Especially today.

Love isn’t manmade. (In fact, nothing could be more divine.)

Love isn’t a coward.

Or a quitter.

Love holds on tight. For always.

Love… wins.

How can I be sure about all this?

God said so.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

See? Told you.

Here’s another translation:

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

 

Yeah, that’s the good stuff.

True love.

If you don’t have it, I hope you find it. And if you’ve found it, I hope you cherish it.

Here’s to the real thing,

Wendy

P.S. If you’re desperate for love this Valentine’s Day (and who isn’t?), allow me to introduce you to its inventor and its essence, Jesus.

Be His.

Hello, love.