I had a series on the church ready to start for this week, but then, last night, my community became Anywhere, USA, when a gunman opened fire at the local shopping mall - killing three, wounding others, and becoming a victim himself. And what I was going to say this week can wait.
What we need is time for grief.
That sound strange to say, perhaps, because this sort of thing just keeps happening in our communities. All around this country, families are going to malls, to parades, to work and not coming home. Memorials are going up, cries are going out. You would think by now, we would be "good" at grief and trauma.
In fact, most of us never even take time for grief. We never stop for trauma. We try to push through, try to find a way to deal with it without ever dwelling in it. But grief and trauma require more being than doing. They require a silence and a space in which to encounter moments like these.
From the very first gunshot, though, most of us are racing to fill the silence with noise and the space with activity. We start planning what we need to do, start figuring out what our next act is going to be. We start asking a thousand questions, right away, looking for answers that no one has yet and when our questions cannot be answered, we simply shout them louder. We become indignant that someone isn't answering us, that someone isn't filling our silence with noise.
It's the silence that's haunting, but that's exactly why we need to be there. It's the silence that gives us the space to recognize that what we need most to do right now is simply to be. To find a way to be. To wrestle with ourselves and with what it means to live in a world like this and with our hopes and dreams for better things and our heartbreak over what is. It's the silence that invites us to truly engage the moment and not just the noise.
But man, we are so good at making noise.
Last night, there were no answers. None. There were a thousand questions, but no answers. There was a news update, with the promise of another one an hour later, and some stayed awake a little while longer just because they wanted to know. And then, at that second update, nothing new. No answers. Nothing to say. And then...the word that not another update would be given until this afternoon. Until a full 16.5 hours more have passed.
The number of persons trying to dig out details on social media is astounding. Anything that anyone even hints at is taken as truth, and stories to start stir and swell. Well, so-and-so said this, and this guy heard that, and this woman said that her cousin's ex-boyfriend's best friend said whatever. And all of a sudden, we have a story. It's not the true story, but it's a story, and it gives us some noise to fill the silence with. And that's all we're really looking for.
Because what in the world are we supposed to do for 16.5 hours?????
What if we could just be?