The Ganglia of Grief

Heartbreak. Anger. Nerve clusters of raw emotions. Neurons flare. So much sensory overload. Incomprehensible loss. Compassion? Am I calloused after another school shooting? I’m told “afferent” nerve cells tell your brain to pay attention to the pain. “Efferent” cells warn your body about danger ahead. Flight — or fight?

Six lives? No — seven lives were lost. All in God’s image. Seven precious lives were destroyed. Students, educators, children, adults, white, black. All are now gone.

Three children are dead. Their families are dying inside. One was a pastor’s daughter. The comforter needs God’s comfort to reflect Jesus as a “wounded healer.” Decades ago, this could have been my own daughter or son, at their private Christian school.

Three school staff are dead. Families grieve. They cared for the children, knew the drills, and did not run from the danger. Covenant School was dedicated to shepherding hearts, empowering minds, celebrating childhood. Good shepherds were stricken and are gone.

The shooter was a 28 year old living at home, receiving treatment for emotional disorders. Designated female at birth, but who self-identified as a transgender man. Motives are not known. Motives never excuse wrong behavior. Was there resentment for being sent to a religious school? At this point, we don't know.

We live in a grievance culture that resorts to violence. Whether Right or Left, MAGA or Woke, elite or uneducated, lives are being lost to vigilante justice — school shootings and political riots.

Some regard the Second Amendment more sacred than human lives. It is repulsive when politicians stage photo-ops, and pose with weapons. The deaths of nine year olds demand more than political theater, thoughts, and prayers. Yet again, there are calls for gun controls and red flag laws. But seven weapons were bought legally. The sales were legal, but is selling assault rifles ever moral? Gun violence is now the #1 cause of America’s youth deaths.

What do we say? When an angry, disturbed person kills revelers at a gay night club, it's called a hate crime against the LGBTQ community. When an angry, disturbed person kills worshipers at a synagogue, it's called a hate crime against the Jewish community. If children are killed at a private Christian school, what do we say?

I struggle for words to comfort families who have lost loved ones in America's mass shootings. But, throughout the Bible, I find all of my bundled up emotions: my anger, my complaints, my grief, my laments, my sorrows, and my excruciating pain. Examples:

Woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain.
I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.
My anguish! my anguish! I writhe in pain! O the walls of my heart!
I pour out my complaint … I tell my trouble.
My pain is ever before me.
Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

"Is everything sad going to come untrue?” (J. R. R. Tolkien). So much sadness. “Afferent” nerves in my peripheral nervous system ask for clarity. But my brain struggles to process this pain. This is clear: mass shootings must not devolve into blame games or debates about gun rights, freedom of religion, or sexual expression.

Moral responsibilities are more than legal rights and personal freedoms. My community requires more than my expressing my individuality. Do I act consistently pro-life? Is every human sacred? Do I love America's children more than my guns?

Civil, legal, and personal rights are important, but are not sacred. I can choose to not make use of my rights to love God and love my neighbors as myself. Moral responsibility can choose the common good over expressions of my personal freedom.

The “efferent” nerves from my brain signal my muscles and limbs. Flight or fight? Fight on! Work tirelessly, not for your personal freedoms and rights, but to protect the sanctity of every human life.

Zechariah 8:5 is a vivid glimpse of God’s coming City: “The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.”

But now let us weep with those who grieve. Let us join creation’s groaning for resurrection. For no more mass shootings, self-serving politicians, festering grievances, or violent behaviors. No more tears. Warfare ended. Empty graves. An everlasting Easter morning.

Come, Lord Jesus, untangle my ganglia.
Come, Lord Jesus, heal the world.

From @IntlBuzz