Last Sunday morning, we awoke to the news of a second mass shooting in Ohio compounding the fear and helplessness we felt following a Saturday attack in Texas. A few years ago, those twin events would have sent us into a tailspin of horror and active calls for legislative response, but community-shattering acts of terror like them have become normal. In fact, these two attacks help keep 2019 on track to host more mass shootings than there have been days in the calendar year.
Is it callous to shield myself from shock of the news of 31 deaths caused by bullets ripping through people’s bodies? Is it unchristian to choose to focus on preparing my family for church rather than helping them process the 255th mass shooting in the country this year?
As Noah was cleaning up his breakfast, he caught me bemoaning the increasing difficulty of recycling our waste, and the problem of outsourcing the process to other nations. That, to his mind, wasn’t really a priority right now. Addressing the increasing level of violence in America was the thing we needed to deal with.
He’s not wrong, but it’s an unbalanced perspective. Addressing the attacks of the weekend was important. So was addressing the problems that led to the attacks. So was addressing our lack of recycling capability at our house. So was addressing his need to brush his teeth and hair that morning.
Which of those things could I do something about at that moment?
I’m not great at multitasking. I’m not even good at it. In fact, I’m pretty abysmal at it, but at any given time, I couldn’t count the number of projects and tasks I have ongoing and active. The state of my physical desktop testifies to that. Things move closer when I’m dealing with them immediately, and they move a bit farther away when I’m setting them aside to deal with later.
I have to deal with what I can do right now, with what needs to be addressed immediately. I’ll miss some things sometimes, and some things won’t get the attention they deserve, and some things will be done well. Looking back at any given moment, I may find I’ve made both poor choices and good choices.
I’m not trying to make sure my kids get a substantial breakfast because I don’t care about the lives lost in El Paso and Dayton. It’s just what needs to get done in that moment. There will be time later that I need to set aside to address those acts of terror.
In fact, that needs to start, I suppose, by recognizing that both attacks are exactly that: acts of terrorism. What else can we do? We can pray, but we have to remember that prayer is an act of communication, of listening for revelation and inspiration. We need to expect that an act of prayer will lead to an act of mercy or healing or forgiveness or advocacy. Prayer will transform us so we can become agents of holy transformation.
I don’t know what that transformation will look like for you, but I expect that it may involve a phone call or email to a local, state, or national representative. It may involve taking advantage of leadership weaknesses in lobbying groups to push for change. It may involve finding those places and people who offer counseling or therapy to grieving families or to people with violent ideologies or tendencies. It may simply involve transforming the language we use to be less confrontational, less belligerent, and more like the hope that proclaims, “the Kingdom of heaven has come near.”
There are things you can do. There are things you need to do. There are things God is calling you to do right where you are with the gifts you have.
Don’t worry about what you can’t do. Take control of what you can.
That’s how God needs to use you.