Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sighs too deep for words...

It was a year ago tonight that it happened.
Wednesday night prayer meeting.
It wasn't his first time in attendance, but it was his last.
And theirs as well.
They studied the Bible together. They prayed. They sang.
Then that young man pulled out his gun and shot down nine people.
In church.

When I think of the way they welcomed him into their midst,
when I imagine their shock as he opened fire on them,
when I ponder the grief of those who survived,
I shudder with sighs too deep for words.

Less than a week ago, another mass shooting.
Fifty died. More than fifty wounded.
Some have said that it wasn't his first time at that club in Orlando.
But it was his last - and theirs as well.
They danced. They sang. They laughed.
And then that young man pulled out his gun and shot so many.

When I hear the stories of the men and women who had gathered there that night to have fun,
to enjoy themselves and each other,
when I ponder the grief of those who survived,
the sorrow of those who mourn,
the relief for those who escaped,
the terror and horror for those trapped inside,
screaming for help, texting their loved ones,
I shudder with sighs too deep for words.

Last night I attended a prayer vigil for those in mourning in Orlando.
Hundreds of us gathered to sing, pray, to light candles, ring bells, and remember.
Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Bahai, non-religious - together.
Longing for peace. Clinging to hope.
Crying. Pleading. Sighing. Groaning.

This morning, the We Walk Together crew walked from the Islamic Center of Charlotte (seen in the photo above) to a Middle Eastern bakery. These walks are planned months in advance - and we all marveled at the beauty and timeliness of starting out at the gathering place of our Muslim neighbors today. One of the men there came out to where we were gathering in the parking lot and explained the holy month of Ramadan to us in simple terms. He talked about how true Muslims do not embrace violence or kill others. He read to us from the Quran and encouraged us to come back when there were more learned people around who could answer our questions. What a kind and gentle man he was. 

He too sighed with deep sorrow as he talked about those who have misread, misunderstood, and misused the name of their Prophet to advance their own evil agendas.

All of this sorrow, all of these tears, all this broken-heartedness, and
all of this prayer remind me of one of my favorite passages of Scripture.
Romans 8:26 says - The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
(and boy oh boy do I feel weak at times like this)
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
(most of the time I don't know what I ought to pray for)
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans 
(so much groaning going on these days - thankfully, we are not alone in our sorrow)
that words cannot express. 

Words fail. Words fall short.
Sometimes the best word is no word at all.
Sometimes all that is needed are those sighs too deep for words.

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