The elementary school buzzed with the faithful preparing for a simple Sunday service near the geographical center of America. Yet, at least for me, time slowed when I heard the number: 50 dead in Orlando. Disbelief was replaced by the shock and sadness now flowing through me as I numbly walked myself through the job for which I had been tasked. My only motivation now was the rather important detail that people I care about were relying on its completion. If not for this fact, the job would have, on that morning, remained unfinished.
As I reached for my smartphone to absorb more news from a place that was, at that moment, much farther away than any miles or interstates could bridge, the music started. It was a beautiful melody and the words seemed to carry extra weight on this no longer typical Sunday morning.
Where there was death, You brought life, Lord
Where there was fear, You brought courage
The tears flowed easily now, the singer’s voice bypassed any internal wall I had erected to separate both my head from my heart and my mind from my soul.
When I was afraid, You were with me
And You lifted me up, and You lifted me up
The chorus struck me like a match tip on a flint.
God with us, God for us
Nothing can come against,
no one can stand between us
Yes, I can appreciate that these words might appear hollow or even absurd on this Sunday morning, on a day when worshiping a God that seems so very far away might easily be recognized as a hopeless and fruitless endeavor. It’s not difficult to understand hesitation when fifty families are left to overcome inconceivable grief, a city is left to weather devastating mourning, and a country is left to bow its head and wonder where do we go from here.
Very little good will come from the tragedy the world witnessed early on the morning of June 12th, 2016. There will be no silver lining. This morning we woke up in a different world. It was dealt a blow that we may never recover from. Today is a dangerous day and tomorrow will be the same.
Our grief will turn to anger. Our pain will seek retribution. Our freedom will be tested. Our rights will be challenged. Our politicians will use this act for advantage, to move forward their ambitions and their agendas. They will pervert our very real fear for political gain. Solidarity will quickly devolve into petty blame. Men who deceitfully claim to be bullhorns for the Almighty will use their rickety pulpits to say this heinous act was His will. They will warp His word to say these deaths were righteous based on the victims’ nationality, faith, sexual orientation, and/or lifestyle choices. The tragedy will further blacken the heart of a nation that was built on the foundation of peace, prosperity and liberty. The pundits, with intent of manipulating ratings, pageviews, and social media algorithms will selfishly hasten this. In the end the ordinary American may now live in a world that looks vastly different than the one our founders dreamed of and our brave soldiers have fought and died to protect. This tragedy will have repercussions that will span far beyond the anguish our country is currently experiencing today.
Make no mistake, we are at war. But it is not war that pits nation against nation, race against race, or religion against religion, God against God, one holy word against another. It is a battle between mercy and madness. It is a war that will face those who believe in real righteousness against those who believe it’s righteous to walk into a crowded nightclub and open fire. It is a war for the soul of humanity and it spans every nation, every race, every religion. To win this war, we must retire these differences and rise up together. We must, all of those, in every corner of this vast world, who believe in peace and love and compassion and mercy, put aside that which separates us and stand united against the very evil that efforts, with every pull of the trigger on an automatic weapon or an explosive device, to break apart our resolve. It is war we cannot lose. And it is a war, I truly believe, throughout every inch of my body, that we will not lose. I believe this because I have faith.
It’s easy to consider these thoughts as I safely and freely worship my God, in the middle of a serene town, in a peaceful state, far away from the living nightmare currently being played out on the southeastern shores of our great nation.
But in my heart, I know that we will win this war, and goodness will prevail. I believe this because the alternative is unthinkable and because my faith, while today tested, remains.
In the midst of desperate madness, when all else fails us, what we have left is faith.