A diverse, welcoming community of open hearts and minds since 1948
I was up early Friday morning and ready to go for my daily walk when I heard the news of the horrific shooting in Colorado at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie. Since then, we have heard the tearful stories of the moviegoers who survived the attacks, as well as the remembrances of the slain by their friends and family. This weekend is another one of those times when we unite in disbelief about the randomness of violence, in prayer for the survivors and in contemplation of the meaning of life. How can the lives of those we treasure be extinguished so senselessly, in the twinkling of an eye? If being in a crowded movie theater is no hedge against danger, then where are we safe?
Our grief on occasions like this is different from that we feel after a catastrophic earthquake, landslide or tsunami, where the seeds of destruction lie deep within the earth, the ocean or the stratosphere. Our grief is different from when there is a terrible highway or boating accident, which we can chalk up to human error or statistical analysis. What is disturbing in this present grief is the reminder that the intent to wreak havoc sometimes lies in the heart of a person we might see in the line at the grocery store, on the subway or in a classroom. Unilike the villains in a summer movie, he doesn't need super powers to do great harm -- just high-powered weaponry and a defenseless crowd.
My benediction on Sunday mornings is "Go in peace, assured that love surrounds you everywhere you may go." It was an intentional departure from a more familiar blessing that says "Go now in peace. May the love of all surround you everywhere you may go." My faith is such that I believe there is no place where love doesn't reach. In my world, the presence of love isn't something we have pray for, but is instead something that we have learned to take for granted, like the air we breath. We can cut ourselves off from it, and deny others access to it, yet love, like air, is otherwise always present and abundant, whether we are conscious of that fact or not.
Can love protect us from all of the dangers, toils and snares that are part of our living? No. Love is not a barrier against pain, suffering and loss. Being surrounded by love, however, can be a framework for facing trials of the spirit. Whatever misfortune might befall me, I can trust that the same love that has surrounded me all the days of my life will continue to be with me in my times of greatest need. It is the same comfort that is reflected in Psalm 139: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there."
Many years ago, I was out at midnight shopping for groceries before going home to my apartment. As I left the store, I was approached by a group of youth, one of whom was holding a gun. They wanted my wallet, which I gave to them. At one point, I realized that I was no longer looking into the eyes of those who would have taken my life for a few dollars. Instead, my essence -- my spirit -- was floating high above the confrontation on the ground. At some point, when it was safe to return, my body and spirit united again.
For this reason, I can only believe that those killed and injured in the theater were comforted in their hour of greatest need. Even when life is dangerous, there is still a hiding place for the soul, deep within the heart of the source that gave us birth.
My thoughts this weekend are especially with the dozens who were injured and the countless loved ones affected by this tragedy. My prayer is that in the midst of profound loss and despair, they are assured that love surrounds them everywhere they may go.
(c) 2012 by Carlton Elliott Smith. All rights reserved.