Last Friday, much of our attention turned to Sandy Hook Elementary School. The killing spree of a troubled 20-year-old man left many dead, injured, traumatized, grieving, and questioning. The media has been abuzz with this tragedy. The victims’ names and stories are in the headlines. Conversations about mental health and gun control are forefront. I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon reading a small fraction of articles shared on Facebook: Sunday sermon excerpts from the pastors in Newtown, witnesses’ accounts of the events that day, spiritual and not-so-spiritual commentaries, and the various status updates that people posted. Some friends offered appropriate prayers. Others reflected on how they didn’t want to take a single day with their children for granted. Teachers and students went to school with a touch of trepidation.
What I noticed more than anything else was a vast change in language on my Facebook News Feed. There was a lot of cussing going on. Four-letter words were all over blogs and status updates. This was not surprising. Of course we want to curse the darkness. Of course we want to lash out at a violence that is so contrary to the love of God. Anger, fear, grief, and shock cause us to say things that we wouldn’t say under normal circumstances. The beautiful thing about our Incarnate God is that God understands all of these emotions. With us, God despises the darkness that tries to steal and kill the beauty of his creation.
Sometimes, we just need to cuss, to let the anger and emotion be what they are.
But there’s also a time to refrain from the “BS-ing”–to move from cursing into blessing. How can we move from anger at what has happened to action that will prevent such tragedies in the future?
Curse the darkness by living as the light.
Instead of lambasting the mental health care system, find opportunities to raise awareness and funds for it.
Instead of getting angry at God, notice that he who is capable of great rage chooses instead to wipe gently the tears from our cheeks.
Instead of blaming guns and government, conduct research on our opinions and how we can lobby positively for change.
Instead of continually labeling opinions and actions, “BS,” in a cycle of resentment and anger, choose to speak words of blessing about God and one another.
In the gospel lesson for this upcoming Sunday, Elizabeth responds to Mary’s entrance with words of blessing: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…. blessed is she who believed that there will be a fulfillment of what the Lord promised” (Luke 1:39-45, NRSV). She blesses the God at work within Mary. She affirms Mary’s obedience. She praises Mary’s faith and the One who is faithful to her.
How do we bless when we feel so far from blessing? We must choose to bless God’s presence in our lives. We must choose to put our hope in his promises. We must choose to change our language from the way we feel to the way God feels about us. We must choose.
May the Light that pierced eternal darkness warm our hearts and soften our lips. May we praise our Creator even when we don’t understand the actions of creation. As he beckons us to the stable, inviting us to “come,” may we respond in the same invitation: “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”
Emmanuel to each of you,
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.