I, like the rest of the nation, have sat in intermittent anger and sadness since the tragedy in Connecticut.
Whether you have kids or not, what has happened is unimaginable and cuts to the core.
I didn't know any of the people involved, yet I have bawled like I did. I feel like I knew them. The loss of innocence--especially in such a brutal fashion--grieves the heart to an almost unmanageable degree.
I literally sobbed as I listened to the news updates on Friday. As I know many of my friends did.
When the final number of victims was first released I literally cried out to God. I wanted to blame Him. After all, He has the ability to do anything. He tells us to ask for anything and if we ask in Jesus' name, in line with God's will, we will receive it.
How could saving these people NOT have been in line with God's will?
I've read many articles and blog posts since then that I agree with. They say that we have removed God from every area of our lives, so why would we be surprised that these things happen?
I agree. And I nodded my head in agreement and felt angry for those who have given up on or turned their backs on God.
I blamed the nameless faces of individuals who, I feel, have directly contributed to our nation's demise.
It's easy to pick on those individuals and groups who are openly tuning God out. From the billboard in Time's Square posted by the Atheists of America to the various agnostic, atheist, and liberal groups who work to remove any mention of God from our court houses, schools, and public buildings, Christianity has long been under attack.
It feels fiercer at the moment, but it has been happening slowly, gradually over time. So slowly, in fact, that many of us haven't noticed how far this attack has progressed until we stop and take a look back and follow the line of events to current day.
And I prayed that God would speak to the hearts of these groups and individuals, and call them to Himself like He did Saul on the road to Damascus. Saul--one of the most celebrated and successful Christian killers of his day--was transformed in one meeting with Jesus. His entire life changed in an instant and he became one of the most prolific defenders of the Word and Herald of the Faith.
So, I prayed. I prayed for the families who will never make sense of this, for the police and investigators who had to take in and process the scene of such an unconscionable act, and the community who may never feel whole and safe again.
And then I felt God speaking to my heart. When I asked how someone can kill another, let alone beautiful little babies, I realized that when we don't present the sanctity of life to our children, it will be easy to discount its value-at all levels. When we tell one another that there are no moral absolutes, and that we each have the right to determine what's best for us, that's when we open the door for moral and ethical degradation. When we go to church on Sunday and "amen" our preacher but go out into the world smiling and winking at those living in ways that are outside of what God calls us to, we are already beginning our descent.
And I realized, I am just as much a part of where we stand today as a nation as are the liberal groups I mentioned above.
Maybe more responsible, actually.
I was baptized at 13 and have professed to be a Follower of Christ since then. I define myself as "Christian" on my Facebook page. I post various scripture references and Christian music links to my page. I read a Bible app on my phone daily. I pray to God to "use me" almost every night. I teach my children about Jesus and pray that they will come to accept Him in their hearts at an early age. I am active in my church.
But I'm missing the mark.
I am comfortable in my white picket fence. I am content to pray to God to speak to the hearts of the lost and to use me to further His Kingdom...yet do absolutely nothing more.
What if God is trying to answer my prayer...but I'm not stepping out and speaking up?
What if I am an answer to my own prayers? What if my action or inaction plays an eternal role?
I believe God can do anything, like I said above. Whether I heed His calling or not, I believe His Will will be done.
But...what if I could assist His will and not stand in its way? What if I am missing out on the blessings of sharing God's love with someone? What if I could have been a part of preventing the tragedy in Connecticut? In Aurora? In Littleton? Or Oregon? Or Colorado?
What if my pride and vanity has kept me from speaking to someone?
As I pray for God to intervene, I have been looking around at everyone else to get the job done.
Someone else who has a bigger platform. Someone else who is a better writer. Someone else who is more eloquent. Someone else who isn't as fearful of criticism. Someone else who knows the Bible better than I do. Someone else...
So if I want to point fingers at anyone for senseless, horrifying acts like this...I need to point at myself. I didn't pull the trigger, but I am also not doing what I am purposed to do.
We all ask Why?! I know why.
We all ask How will we make this stop?
I know how.
And so do many others.
It's actually a simple solution. But it isn't easy.
For most, it will be the hardest thing to come to terms with and follow through on.
God doesn't just need to be brought back to our schools. God needs to be at home.
God needs to be in each one of us. Actively.
And not just tucked away deeply because religion is a "private" thing. Our personal relationship is just that, personal. Not private. God never said our faith in Him was private. Nor did He say to keep it to ourselves lest we offend someone. In fact, He said the exact opposite.
"Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." Mark 16:15
"Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven." Matthew 5:16
How can we expect God to intervene when there are others who don't know Him? "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" Romans 10:14.
So I am challenged and convicted to look at my own house and see how I am listening to God. I feel many of us are called to step up and start actually walking our faith. More than just giving back the excess change the cashier unwittingly gives us, more than shopping for Christmas presents for those who are less fortunate, more than posting a scripture link on Facebook or Twitter, more than attending church regularly and putting a check in the collection plate, more than saying all the right things or offering up "thoughts and prayers" for others.
How am I planning to do this?
Here are a few things I plan to look at closely:
*What kind of messages am I putting into myself with the music I listen to, the movies I watch and the books/magazines I read?
*What kind of messages am I allowing into my children with the TV they watch, the games they play and the books they read?
*What am I putting into my body on a regular basis? Am I really treating it like a Temple of the Holy Spirit?
*How am I using words to build up and edify others? Am I talking about people behind their backs but feeling safe to do so because it's just "venting"?
*What words am I using? Do I curse when it suits me and when it makes what I'm saying funnier.
*Am I honoring my husband's position in our family?
*Am I really using my time wisely? How much Facebook and Tweeting am I doing that could be spent caring for and spending time with my kids, caring for my home, and having time with God?
*Am I really reaching out to others or am I merely holding them at arm's length...letting them get only close enough that I don't feel they will see the real me or worse--that I will see the real them?
*Am I spreading God's love only to those who I think deserve it or am I planting the seeds everywhere He sends me?
*Am I responsive to my husband like I should be or do I only respond when I feel like it?
*Am I literally on my knees praying every day for our country? For our president? For the schools? For our church and leadership?
*Are my prayers more of me asking for things or do I also spend time in praising Him for who He is and all He has already given me?
*Am I seeking out ways to be God's hands and feet or do I only look for the ways that are comfortable for me?
*Am I surrounding myself with the people that will build up my relationship with God or with others who work hard to tear it down?
*Am I making anything else a priority over God? My family? My body? My business? My friends? Money? My home? My ego? My insecurities?
*Am I so wrapped up in my issues and problems and so focused inward that I can't see all that is happening around me?
*Am I speaking the truth in love or am I wielding it as an offensive weapon to make a point?
*Do I really read the Word and meditate on it or am I taking my minister's word for what is in the Bible?
*Am I in tune with the signs of the time?
*Do I really live a life of integrity or are lies sometimes easier or more convenient?
*Am I teaching my children by example or falling back on "do as I say not as I do"?
*Do others see Jesus in me even if they don't realize that's what they are seeing?
*Am I really willing to give it all--even if that means my family, my health, and my belongings--to follow God's will for me?
*Am I willing to listen to that still small voice in my heart when it says to 'Go!'?
*Am I only "liking" posts or images on Facebook that shout "We need God" but then going about my day business as usual?
How am I going to be a part of the change I want to see--that we so desperately need?
I see back and forth, sometimes heated exchanges between different groups.
NRA, Gun supporters, anti-gun people, politicians, celebrities, news personnel, those who call for more access to mental health care, those who want a greater police presence in the schools, those who want our teachers armed, those who want to pull their children out of school, those who insist they are not going to fear....but all of that is secondary. Some things are merely treating the symptoms of what is REALLY the center of the issue.
And I am called to take the first step regardless of what anyone else does. I am called to stand up for, speak, and LIVE the truth, even if I'm standing alone.
Because I know that if I had been the only one on Earth, Christ still would have died for me.
So, this is a charge for all of us who consider ourselves Christians. It's time to put action behind that title.
"But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why scripture exclaims, A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God. But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: 'Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?' The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to." Romans 10:14-17 The Message.