My mind is on Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Newtown, Orlando . . . and on that early October Sunday night in Las Vegas. My heart is trying to wrap itself around the actions of one person whose inexplicable violence impacted the lives of over 20,000 people in less than 20 inutes. My mind challenges my heart: “Where is the grace in the senseless, the unexplainable, in the random, horrific and unfathomable loss of innocent life? I waited in calm stillness for some kind of answer . . . and it came.
Grace, unconditional, benevolent and divine love, was present at each gruesome scene. It blazed brightly in the abundant selflessness of strangers standing by one another, in every courageous and generous act of one human toward another. Grace was quiet patience and hope in the midst of chaos; it called through soothing voices; it glistened through unashamed tears for another’s pain; it illuminated the night through fervent, heartfelt prayers for love, help, hope and forgiveness. Every unselfish, compassionate thought and action that reached out in love during the unthinkable brought divine Grace into a grieving life. And by their very presence, each grace-filled thought and action helped to begin mending the brokenness in ourselves, in others, and in our world. So, my answer? You and I – we are the grace I seek; we, individually and in community, are loving antidotes to suffering and despair.
Author Sue Monk Kidd writes of her longing for hope and meaning during personal crisis in When the Heart Waits. She describes a time when a bird flew headlong into her window and fell to the ground, stunned and bruised . . . and waiting.
“I sat beside her, unable to resist the feeling that we shared something, the two of us. The wounds and brokenness of life. Crumpled wings. A collision with something harsh and real. I felt like crying for her. For myself. For every broken thing in the world. . .. The bird taught me anew that we’re all in this together, that we need to sit in one another’s stillness . . .. Finally she was finished being still. She cocked her head to one side, lifted her wings, and flew. . .. From the corner of my eye I saw her shadow move along the ground and cross over me. Grace is everywhere, I thought.”
It occurs to me that we are both the bruised bird and the author of this story. We continue to collide with the harsh and often incomprehensible realities of our world and we feel like crying for ourselves and the others who share this part of life with us. What to do. If we let ourselves become caught in downward spirals of vengeance, hopelessness and isolation we too easily forget the importance of being in community with others – the bruised and broken who need our Grace to fly again. What if we, like Kidd, could ground ourselves in a kind of patient stillness . . . to believe that with stillness comes healing. I’m not suggesting stillness is either giving in or giving up. Instead I’m asking that in the midst of shock and pain we carve out a space to rest, apart from the turbulent chaos of despair and anger – a place to wait, momentarily within Grace. In healing stillness comes the possibility of healthy creation, the reality of reflective and productive next steps.
There are things for us to relearn and recount about being human in the midst of overwhelming suffering. Think about it: one person altered the lives of thousands in only a matter of minutes. We, too, are one person, armed with the loving power of hope, generosity and good will. In your own stillness, identify gracious actions that can make a difference toward healing yourself and the world around you. Do one; do another, and another, and another. We are bruised and hurting, resting, hoping, questioning, imploring . . . tethered to an unsafe ground. With each other, we can all fly again. Be at peace. Do good. Trust love. Be Grace.