Praying for Parkland, and For Us All

Without trying to take sides in the gun vs. anti-gun argument, allow me to cautiously make the following observations: one, a gun tragedy is guaranteed to bring people out of the woodwork, quoting outrageously misleading statistics and claiming that all gun advocates are essentially guilty of murder; two, gun advocates will try to “put things into perspective” by saying the problem isn’t actually as gigantic as it is made out to be, and essentially come off like jerks who think a dozen or so dead children is not that big a deal. In short, everyone still believes what they already believed, they’re just louder about it. 

I find facts a lot less argumentative than rhetoric, so let’s look at some facts.

Problems can have more than one effective solution; therefore, someone who disagrees with your approach is not necessarily evil

Praying, petitioning and picketing to change people’s minds is all part of living in America.  But while we are discussing these things, let’s work under the assumption that everyone but criminals hates gun violence and that we are all trying to be part of the solution.  If you object to the gun (or no-gun, as it were) policy at your child’s school, say so.  Pull your child out if you like.  But don’t accuse the other side of evil motives.  That only inflames passions and confuses the issue.  Loving your neighbor means bearing with him (1 Corinthians 13:7) — even if he has some ideas you find objectionable.

You can’t fix society; you can, however, fix your own child. 

We can argue all day long (and we do) about the Second Amendment, mental health, prescription drug use and abuse, violent video games, absentee fathers, general godlessness, and a host of other factors that may contribute to our current condition.  In the end, there is virtually nothing you can do about The Big Picture.  And that’s fine.  The Big Picture has always been a distraction, anyway.  We focus on things we cannot control as a way of excusing our failure to exercise the control we do have — in this case, with regard to our children.  I cannot guarantee a violence-free life for my children, either at school or anywhere else in Satan’s world.  But I can train them to be kind to others, to respect authority, to exercise courage with wisdom, and to use the tools at their disposal in a responsible manner.  It’s an Ephesians 6:4 thing.  The good news is, those skills will be blessings to them with or without armed intruder incidents.

Living in fear gives victory to the fearmongers

Last year I packed up my youngest child and moved her to a city and college where (at the time, at least) we knew no one.  I was concerned about loneliness (ours, not hers — I remember college, and I knew she would be just fine).  I was concerned about sinful influences, motivation, money, and various other issues.  At no point was I concerned about her safety.  I’m still not.  Statistically, she’s more likely to be killed by bees than by a terrorist.  So I gave her some basic life advice and cut the cord. 

It’s working.  (“Rule number one: Don’t be an idiot.”  That’s what she told me last week.  If only her father were so concise!)  Life under God’s sun is an endless series of blessings from His hand; “they are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).  And that is true for the most oppressed and needy of us.  I refuse to live as though that were not true.  I am too busy fearing God to fear what some human might do.  “Why are you in despair, O my soul?  And why are you disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

Prayer helps. 

I know there are plenty in our society who mock such a notion — who may even think prayer is part of the problem, that it pushes the onus onto God for relief and absolves us of any responsibility.  And I agree that “trusting in God” is not an adequate excuse for inaction, whether in these circumstances or any other in which His people are called to action.  But people, including many Christians, are confused about the purpose of prayer.  We are not to pray so as to receive our chosen outcome — and doubt His power and/or love until we do.  We pray to heighten our own sense of dependence upon God.  By praying over our “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), we remind ourselves He is in control, and that He gives grace in His chosen means and measure to those who live in faith.  And that grace is here, waiting for us to find it.  It may not come in the package we would have chosen, but it is here.

So, people of Parkland, Florida, students and staff at Stoneman Douglas High School, and all others impacted by this tragedy, I don’t know if you want my prayers.  But you have them anyway.  For my sake as much as yours.