Incidents similar to what happened last night in Las Vegas always heighten my anxiety. I start living in a world of what ifs, I walk in streets thinking about my next move if the person two cars over does something to cause me or others harm. I walk my dog at night with my keys between my knuckles. When biking home from class in the dark, I think about how to fight off an attacker who is faster and stronger than me. In planes, I wonder what I'll hold on to or how I'll react if the plane crashes. I tell Matt goodbye as he heads home to Chicago and I think about all the things that could happen to him in such a big city. Tragedies bring out my anxiety and my fears. I am always jumping to the worst possible conclusions.
But I, like so many of us, consume these tragedies. I scour the news sites, social media, survival stories. I so desperately want to understand and know all the details of what happened. Media's rise helps feed this need. And while I think its important to stay updated on what's going on... Sometimes I think it makes me feel numb to it too. This morning, I woke up, I saw the news notification on my phone, I whispered "wow that's so sad", but then I moved on. I kept going with my day because that's just what we do, right? We post on social media, we talk about its awfulness with our friends, and then its over. We've done our due diligence, we know all the gory details.
I have to stop consuming the tragedy to understand the suffering. And not understand, as in understand what those who lost loved ones today are going through, because I can never understand their pain, nor will I ever say that I do. I mean understand as in sit with these lives that were stolen, these hearts that are broken and this world that is desperate for an end to all the sadness. I mean understand as in sit and listen and help to carry another's pain. I mean understand as in sit in silence with those who just don't want to be alone. I mean understand as raise my empty, trembling hands up to God and say, "I don't get why you let this happen and I'm so angry for everyone feeling this pain so immensely, but here I am. Use me, use this brokenness and make it beautiful. Redeem us, Jesus."
I've seen a lot of posts today that say something along the lines of "we need to stop praying and start actually doing something", and I reject that. I understand that many of these posts come from hearts hardened to my God, people that don't care to or cannot fathom my belief sight unseen. Because if only they knew my Jesus, they'd know the only thing I can do is pray. They'd know that prayer is the most powerful quality I have. Prayer has saved me from fears of homelessness, fears of mental health, broken relationships, abusive mindsets and other terrible situations. Prayer saved my college career and ultimately it saved my life.
I don't know about you, but I tend to have a pretty big savior complex. I have pretty terrible self-esteem, but there is also an arrogance that tells me I can handle it. Perhaps even in writing this know, I'm saying that I have some kind of answer. But when I start to think that I can save myself, that I can fix other's problems, that I have the answers no one else has thought of; well, that's when I hit rock bottom. Prayer humbles me. It tells me that I am powerless without an all-powerful God. I cannot help what happened in Las Vegas on my own. But I can cry out to God and ask for help, ask for healing, ask for mercy. I cannot end the suffering, but I can pray to the One who ultimately suffered that we may one day suffer no more.
Prayer is all I have, and today, I'm praying for peace, empathy, understanding, love. I'm praying for those who had loved one's stolen today. I'm praying for those who walked away from that concert without the one they walked in with. I'm praying for the family of Stephen Paddock who seems so blindsided by this tragedy. I'm praying for those fighting to hold on today. I'm praying that tomorrow and the next day, I might have the courage to seek out the lonely and isolated and tell them how much I think they're worth. I'm praying that these tragedies will not force me into submission of fear, but that I will continue to give myself to others. I'm praying for hands like Jesus'. Hands that hold, that comfort, that give until they can't any longer. I praying for you and I'm praying for me.
And if prayer just isn't something you can bring yourself to right now, that's okay. There are valleys for all of us. There are blood banks desperately in need of your blood type, gofundme pages seeking your donations, and friends that need your soft shoulder and comforting ear. If prayer isn't your power, I urge you to seek kindness when it would be so much easier to just turn the other direction, call your representatives and talk to them about the importance of gun control and mental health care. (We as the hands and feet of the body should be seeking these routes also). Finally, don't let the sunrise tomorrow with you already archiving the Las Vegas shooting. Hold these names, these faces, these prayers with you, carry their pain to Jesus.