I haven’t written about that recent tragedy in Connecticut. Even now, I’m not sure that I can. Really, what more is there to say? About the only thing I could possibly add to what has already been said is another plea of “Come, Jesus, Come”.
But there’s another reason I haven’t written. I’ve been hiding. From the moment I heard that news, I retreated deep into a cave and shut myself in with a stone. There I sat, with my hands over my ears, my eyes squeezed tight, humming Kyrie Elieson. I believe I was also rocking myself, as I sang.
I hid because I have this tendency to feel things deeply; some might think too deeply. I can’t help it. It’s the fearful and wonderful way in which I’m made. Like most character traits, this sensitivity is at turns both delightful and burdensome. Finding beauty in the winter sun highlighting the fuzzy cheek of Pearl in her carseat–delightful. Feeling the weight of grief and sorrow over dozens of lost lives–burdensome.
I knew that I could not look at these events without feeling compelled to pick them up; and if I picked them up I would not be able to abandon them again. I would keep those heavy stones close to my chest, groaning under the weight, and carrying them throughout my days. And I knew I could not bear the weight of them. And that, my friends, is why I have been hiding.
Early last week I read this poignant post from Emily. And it gave me courage to roll away that stone in front of my cave, to invite God into my space, to draw out these fears and events and lay them before Him, to ask Him “What do I do with this??”
Of course He joined me, and of course He answered me. But His methods are ever-surprising. This time, He met me in the Mumford and Sons song that has been topping my playlist. I don’t make any claims as to the meaning or the purpose of the song, in fact I have a funny feeling that the writer’s intentions are the complete opposite of the meaning I’m finding in it, and yet it seems that God does so delight in speaking through the unexpected. Here is something of how that conversation went, channeled via Mumford and Sons (who, in turn, channel Shakespeare).
God: (joining me in the recesses of my cave) First things first. Before we can discuss the reason you invited Me here, we have to address this fear, this hiding. It’s awfully dark in here.
Me: Dark? Don’t you think that’s kind of a harsh word? I mean, look at all the darkness out there. It’s the darkest, deepest, blackest nighttime out there. I’m hiding from the darkness.
God: And yet, it’s undeniably dark in here. Walk out with me? See what we see?
And we walk, me slowly and uncertainly, Him gentle and confident. I step out of my cave, look out at the night and retreat again. I can’t help it. I’m terrified by what I’ve seen.
Me: The darkness is deep enough, but then there are all those stars whose sole purpose seems to be to prove exactly how dark it is. I can’t stand it, God. I’m not coming out.
God: Do you prefer that the stars hide their fires? They show you the darkness, but they also show you what’s true. What are they showing you in yourself?
Me: Anger. Hatred. Sorrow and Loss. Grief. Fear. Fear of seeing these things, and not being able to un-see them. Fear of seeing these things in other people and not being able to help them. Fear of seeing these things in myself and not being able to come out from under them.
God: You will not see them alone. I’ll stand with you. And when you’re done with them, when you’ve done all the looking you can stand to do, when they begin to bend your neck under their weight, you can give them to Me. You can trust me to carry them for you.
Here I sit, in my warm home with my safe, healthy, giggling children. I am miles away, both in distance and in experience. And yet I can’t bear the weight of this tragedy. If I can’t bear the weight, how much more so the teachers, the brothers and sisters, the moms and dads, the first responders, the doctors and nurses, and–Oh! Lord have mercy!–the children in the classroom next door. I am certain I am not the only one who is hiding in a cave, a prisoner of fear and gut-wrenching sorrow.
I love Emily’s advice in that blog post: “Let your particular personality become fully awake in the midst of the questions. Where is your burden heaviest? Pray that.”
My burden lies in the fear, in the hiding, in the unwillingness to look and see, and especially in the trusting of God to carry those burdens for me. And so I pray for me, for you, for all of us and all of them, that we will be bold to roll away our stones; to invite Him in to join us in our hiding; to seek refuge in His arms; to find comfort and peace there; to trust Him even as the stars burn and remind us of how dark the darkness has become.