We Are the Mercy We Seek…

The Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings

The Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings

Krystle Campbell. Martin Richard. Lingzi Lu.
Three orchids withered on the vine this week.  They never had a chance to fully bloom.

This week, a nation grieves after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon the city of Boston.  Promising lives and futures were swallowed whole behind a cowardly and senseless act of terrorism, and the survivors now begin their struggle behind the unanswerable “why?”

As a nation, we will rally around the families of the dead and maimed and will embrace our brothers and sisters in Boston with action, thoughts, and prayers.  And despite their heroic efforts, the first responders will need our support as the floodgates of emotions finally catches up with them. We will be there for them as well.  But what about us?  What does the average person across America do to navigate the hopelessness and despair we feel in connection with these continuing acts of horror?

What can we do but personalize it?  To extend our support and love to those within our own sphere of influence.  While there is little most of us can do to directly help those who were caught up in the actual nightmare of Boston, we can certainly look around us and see ample loss and suffering in our own communities.  We can take that sense of hopelessness and turn it around, extending our compassion, our strengths, and our love to those who can use it best.  To feel a broken, aching heart for the victims of the Marathon bombing, yet remain blind to the suffering and pain of those closest to us is a cheap, selfish emotion.  We are better than that.

I had a back and forth with a writer friend of mine this week, before the bombings, about the need for each of us to take our gifts, whatever they may be, and assume responsibility for confronting the evil that is so prevalent in our daily lives.  She made what I thought at the time to be a defeating comment about how little we could do to combat all the evil that surrounds us.  I responded to her, perhaps a bit more harshly than I intended, that to accept that and do nothing was, in my opinion, an even greater evil.  She is a powerful writer with a gifted, compelling voice, and I reminded her that with that gift comes responsibility.  She already knew that…but I think my words caused her to stop and reflect for a moment on how powerful her gift really was.  Through the power of her writing, she can galvanize and motivate others into action.  She can do something!  And I know she will.

I often turn my own readers off when I chasten them not to look to earnestly for God’s mercy in times like these.  It isn’t that I don’t believe in God. I do.  I just don’t think He’s as merciful as we are lead to believe.  I believe He expects us to be the channels of that mercy.  But too often, we convince ourselves that falling on our knees in prayer is action enough, and nothing could be further from the truth.  We keep searching for God’s mercy while withholding our own.  And the acts of mayhem around the globe march steady on.  God has no stake in this, or at least none that my weak mind can discern. And if I spend my time looking for his tender mercy in these horrific acts, I’ll be spending most of my day walking in circles.  His mercy is not evident.  But ours can be.

Wow!  As I write this, the radio news channel is reporting a massive explosion in the city West, Texas.  15 people, including first responders, are dead.  Entire city blocks are leveled.  There are over 150 people wounded, and the count has just started.  Say a prayer, if you must, but once you get off of your knees, take then a step toward just one person whose life you can impact and do something.  If you want to honor the victims of far off tragedies, do so by embracing and helping those in equal dire circumstances nearest you.  Figure out what your “gift” is…and extend it to others.  Then, and only then, can we each do something about the relentless evil that invades our lives.

Sadness: The Emotion of Separation from God

Sadness is perhaps our most profound reminder of our separateness from God.

Of all the noble human emotions, nothing illustrates better the chasm that exists between man and his Creator. If we reflect upon the causation of sadness, whether it be loss or feelings of intense separation, we cannot but be reminded of the limitedness of man in relation to the boundless love and healing grace of God. Nothing reminds us more of our ineptitude and failing than our powerlessness to stave off sadness, both in ourselves and in others, and nothing stands in starker contrast to His infinite goodness than our painful descent into continual despair and sadness.

The God we know basks in the eternal ether of all things possible, while man struggles to tread water and survive in an ocean of his own failings. While it is true that we possess the capacity to empathize, and even to a minor extent, to comfort…we do not, nor will we ever, have mastery over the prevention or mitigation of this painful human frailty. We cannot prevent others from causing grief and sadness, and worse yet, neither can we prevent ourselves from inflicting it, despite our best intentions. We can pray for the promise of healing, but we cannot prevent in the first place the tendency to cause.

Even in our closest union with God, we lack the power or the insight of pure love. We condition our compassion upon a human factoring of suffering…and in doing so, we continually miss the mark. In our most benevolent, the best we can do is provide the afflicted with compassion and understanding. We cannot remove the cause nor can we fully ameliorate the effect. In fact, because the closest we can come is to empathize, we often find ourselves likewise “saddened” even as we reach out to staunch to suffering of others.

Jesus, in his human manifestation, experienced and fully understood the debilitation of sadness. His temporal separation from the Father and ensuing grief was clearly manifest in the Garden of Gethsemane as in the deepest throes of isolation and sadness he called out for Peter to “stay with me this dark hour,” a request even his most loving apostle could not accord. Later, upon the cross, the experience of sadness and separation from God most closely reflected our own as he cried out, “My God, why hath thou forsaken me?” His weakness mirrored our own; his sadness a reflection of our own separation from God.