For some reason, this picture spoke a thousand words to me. Overwhelming loss of life. Grief. Trauma. Heartbroken families. Sudden tragedy.
Fifty-nine lives ended abruptly Sunday night.
Five hundred people are still suffering physical injuries.
Thousands of families, first responders, and concert-goers are in the initial stages of traumatic stress and grief.
Once we get past the basic facts—who, what, when, where, and how—we grapple with the ambiguous question of “why.” America has suffered through so many shootings since Columbine in 1999 that the aftermath is sadly predictable: democrats blame guns, republicans buy guns for fear of them being outlawed, and the root of the problem is drowned beneath raging rhetoric.
The root of the problem has little to do with means and everything to do with motive. If possessed by a strong enough desire to harm others, a person will find whatever means are at their disposal to carry it out. In our haste to “fix” things (i.e. demanding we outlaw the means), we overlook the immediate needs of the broken and merely change the means by which future cruelty will be meted out.
The problem is as old as humanity itself. Cain didn’t need a gun to kill his brother Abel. His rage and jealousy propelled him to commit murder, and he intended to do it by whatever means he had at his disposal. For some unfathomable reason, the shooter in Las Vegas wanted to kill innocent people. Was he drunk? High? Mentally unstable? Criminally insane? I don’t know why, and I probably never will.
One thing is certain: This was not an act of love, but an act of cruelty.
In reading up on the shooter, I felt like I was reading a worn-out plot line: Shooter had no family; Divorced twice; Operating alone; committed suicide post-incident. No excuse can or should be made for this incident, but it begs the question: Are we somehow creating a culture of loneliness? Are people withering into cruel creatures because they feel unwanted? Unloved? Unneeded?
We live in a world of shadows and light. We see the light of God’s love in the selfless acts of kindness shared by our fellow humans. In those moments we have a brief glimpse of what it means to be created in the image of God. Sadly, the shadows of satan distort that image, warping it with selfishness, hatred, cruelty, and malice. Sometimes those shadows fall on our path, extinguishing our happiness for days or even decades.
Why did Hitler sanction Nazi camps? Why did Rwanda happen? Why did those innocent children die at Sandy Hook? Why did millions die in the trenches of the Western front? Why did my friend die from an IED in Iraq?
Why?? Because we all have the capacity to love or to hate; to be selfish or selfless; to walk in the light of God or the darkness of the world.
Instead of asking why, how about I ask myself some Who/What/When/Where/How Questions:
Who can I help today? Who needs a friend?
What can I do to help? What words (or deeds) of encouragement can I bring?
When should I act? (Answer: At every opportunity!)
Where should I go to show this love? (Answer: Start at home and work your way out!)
How can I bring the gentle light of love into the shadows of someone’s brokenness?
Why should I do any of this? Because I want to bring the joy and light and love of my Savior to a broken, dark, and hateful world.