Thursday, December 20, 2012

Searching for the Light

Advent. My favorite season of the year.

A season of anticipation.

A season of preparation.

A season of Darkness.

And there is always so much darkness this time of year. This time of year we spend so much time, energy and money trying to convince ourselves that we should be happy. Somehow, we have allowed that idea to translate into buying things for ourselves and each other... because the more stuff we have, the happier we'll be, right?

Nothing puts that happiness to a hault faster than tragedy. And we've had plenty of that, haven't we? Personal or local tragedies aside, I can't even list all of them that have made it on national news and strongly impacted individuals throughout our country. Not the least of these, of course, involve shootings. Killing our innocent children. 28 lives lost in Newtown, CT. A 16 year old in Pierre, SD while his 16 year old friend sits in jail being tried as an adult...

Did you hear me say 28 lives in Newtown?

I wish that number didn't catch you off guard, but if you've watched the news at all, I bet it has. They keep talking about 26 lives. 20 children, 6 teachers/administrators... but let us not forget even for a moment and even in the face of tragedy that 28 lives were lost that day, including the life of the shooter, age 20, and his mother, the owner of the gun but as far as we know an innocent by-stander.

Any life lost is a tragedy. EVERY life lost is a loss. Life is Sacred, and we should mourn for ALL of these lives we have lost.

There are so many places this conversation can and even should go, and I will be among the voices calling (again and again) for more gun control.

But first: let us grieve together. Let us rest in the darkness if we need to. Let us grieve together and process these inconceivable circumstances: but let us not forget our call to care for all people.

In the midst of a call to pray for the victims' families (and trust me I have a great deal), I can't help but to keep coming back to how quickly we forget.

We forget that people suffer. We forget that much as those families are surely living in hell as they are without words or understanding... as surely as they are mourning the loss of their children, mothers and sisters... so too is a family grieving the mystery and confusion and pain of losing a mother and a brother and a nephew and a sister... and while they try to process that loss, they can't help but to feel guilty, pained and at a loss of words for their own flesh and blood that owned the weapons and pulled the trigger.

And while I won't defend actions, and I don't believe anyone should own such weapons of destruction, I can't help but to push back. To ask us to consider the hell that young man was surely living in long before December 14. A hell that he lived with every day that eventually led him to that tragic, heart-breaking day of events we will never forget. I can't help but wonder how many others out there are living in hell... and I wonder how many people in each of our lives we are failing to reach out to because we can't be bothered. Because we're tired. Because they're hard to deal with. Because we have more questions than answers. Because we don't understand.

...because we think dreadful results of unattended mental illness will "never happen to us."

Mental illness itself is not cause for such tragedies as these, but it cannot be ignored, and we cannot pretend like we are doing anything short of harm by ignoring it.

I have struggled with depression. I have struggled with anxiety. Mental illness, in all its forms, great and small, is a terrible form of darkness that can feel overwhelming and inescapable: but it's not. There is help out there if we are willing to reach out... if people are willing to reach out to those in need...

Advent is a season of Darkness, and this year in particular, there seems to be darkness all around. Depression is rampant during the holidays. Pain of loss and tragedy are all around us.

But let us not be consumed by it.

Let us never forget that even in darkness, the Light shines. With each passing day, it shines brighter still.

Soon, the Christ candle will be lit as the child of Light is fully revealed to us on Christmas.

And then? Then we shall not find happiness we so often associate with the season. Then we shall find JOY.

JOY of the Spirit that comes with the knowledge and understanding of what it really means that "God is with us."

This kind of JOY can be present even in the darkness. Even in our pain. Even when the world around us seems to be falling apart.

And yes: even in the midst of tragedy and unanswerable questions.

Because the light shines bright, and the darkness, no matter how hard it tries, cannot overcome it.

Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

Karl Kroger said...

Thanks for your witness of grace, vulnerability, and love.