I considered writing this morning about the cycle of violence, and peacemaking, and gun control. I considered talking (again) about the danger of fear and how it brings us to dangerous and often unhealthy reactions and how Jesus, if he teaches us anything, shows us how not to do any and all of these things. I thought about reminding you that Jesus was crucified not fortified, that the words he spoke from the cross were not “get me down from here and I will give you what you deserve” but “Father forgive them.” I thought about sharing links to statistics about how many mass shootings there have been this year, and endless documentation and study that show more guns does not equal more safety.
And then I just felt tired, thinking about it all.
And then I felt frustrated, thinking how the answer is not doing nothing. The world does not need tired and frustrated people. It needs wide awake people. How can we be those people today?
And so I want to tell you something else instead. Because the problem we are facing is not going to be solved merely by sharing information. The people who most need to hear that information are not going to listen to it or believe it anyway, and so we shouldn’t pat ourselves on the back by endlessly accumulating more reasons to feel self-righteous about our own views of things. I have no doubt that data proves violence to be just as insidious as it is. That’s the reality, and no form of measurement is going to evade it, no matter how much people want to believe otherwise. The problem, then, is what we do in response. What do we do, faced with a world of increasingly horrific violence?
Dear God, what do we do when faced with a world where even the mass shootings of school children and people with developmental disabilities does not turn us to peace?
I don’t mean that in a sentimental way. I don’t mean we pray to “let go and let God.” I don’t mean we fill the air with platitudes and pleadings. I don’t mean prayer as a righteous excuse to talk to God about all the things we think the world should be doing. Pray, in silence. Don’t say anything. Stop searching. Stop reacting. Be still, and listen. Listen for God.
Be still, and listen. Listen for God.
Not listen to God, because God may or may not say anything to you in that particular moment. That is not the point. Listen for God. Attune your soul to God’s presence, which is right there with you, as surely as your breath. Settle into it. Rest in in. Find the peace amidst the noise.
We cannot hear God in all the noise if we have not practiced hearing God in the quiet. There is so much noise, and it will only continue; and not just white noise but rattling, core-shaking, terrible noise. It is the noise of chaos. It is the noise of fear and anxiety. It is the noise of millions of people acting out of their most base emotions. Get off that train. Sit down. Stop talking. Pray. Listen for God.
Set down your need for action, for response, for retribution, for understanding. Chaos has no structure. You cannot untangle its endless string of knots. Set it down. Breathe.
Listen for God.
When you find your rest in God, you will know what to do. It might take a while. Do not be surprised if your to do list is less impressive than you had hoped. Maybe it will be just to breathe deeply through today. Maybe it will be to hold that peace when you feel anxiety creeping up your neck and down into your heart. Maybe it will be to shut off Facebook and Twitter. One of my mentors reminds us constantly not to contribute to the fear and aggression of this time. Do not contribute to it. Remove yourself from it. You are not removing yourself from the world. You are still here. You have nowhere else you can go, even if you wanted to. Leave the chaos. Listen for God instead.
When you listen for God, you may not know what to do. That’s okay too. The more important thing is to know how to be. To practice it, right in the midst of the chaos. Be light. Be peace. Be calm. Be wide awake.
Do not contribute to the fear and aggression of this time.
Listen for God.
That is enough for today. The most powerful thing you can do today is to be present as a person of centeredness and peace. It is enough. Anchor yourself in God. Practice staying there, in that holy space.
These problems we are facing require deep wisdom. Deep wisdom does not come from information. It does not come from reaction. It is born only in silence.
Listen for God. And wait.
In time, we will know what to do. If we don’t, we will know how to be. It is enough.