MY ADOPTED hometown is nicknamed The City Beautiful, but today her face is smudged with tears. Long known as the global headquarters of happy fantasy—from Mickey Mouse to Harry Potter—this past weekend Orlando became the world capital of ugly reality.
As the deadliest mass shooting in American history puts my city in the headlines for terrorism rather than tourism, my thoughts go two ways. First, of course, to all those affected by the horror—the victims and their families and friends, the first responders, and others involved in the aftermath.
And second to my many journalist peers trying to put together a more complete picture of all that transpired, so that the rest of us might better understand and better respond. As I have noted before, journalists carry a great responsibility in shaping what we know and believe about our world and how to live in it.
For both the many impacted by the horror that unfolded at Pulse nightclub and the media, I’m praying two things. Both are rooted in a familiar Bible story.
We all know the account of how Jesus calmed the storm when the disciples were terrified that they were going to drown. But there’s a nuance to one of the Gospel accounts that I believe can guide us in similar situations, where there is great fear and death hovers nearby.
In Mark 4:39, we read that Jesus did two things: He rebuked the wind, and He spoke peace and stillness to the waves. In other words, He distinguished between the cause and the effect. The disciples were all eyes on the waves, understandably. But in one sense, the waves weren’t the real—or at least, ultimate—problem. Jesus just spoke peace to them and told them to be still. His sternness was directed at the unseen reason for the waves: the wind.
Much of the media coverage of the next few days is going to be focused on the waves. Who did what. Who didn’t do what. Who should have done what. All important questions, of course. Yet in one sense they are, like the water, only the surface.
My hope and prayer is that some journalists will ask deeper questions beyond things like gun control, national security, and religious bigotry—about the invisible forces behind the storms and about the capacity of the human heart for wickedness.
It’s a familiar concept to Christians, of course: we know that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
For those whose lives have been forever changed, I pray peace and stillness, that the waves of understandable rage might be calmed. Jesus can bring a seemingly impossible peace “which surpasses all understanding,” we are told in Philippians 4, one that will “guard your hearts and your minds.”
It was touching to drive past blood banks yesterday and see folks lined up around the block, waiting four or more hours to donate. Others brought food and water for donors as they stood in line in the summer heat. People just wanted to do something to show they cared about their neighbors: Ourlando.
I pray that spirit of compassion continues and that The City Beautiful may face the ugliness with which it has been confronted and overcome. May this turn out to be a year of God’s favor like the one the prophet of old declared, “to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion [and Orlando]—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).
Photo credit: mikeyskatie via Foter.com/CC BY-SA