The Light shines in the darkness…

Ugh. I feel so gross.

This morning there was yet another school shooting.

At an elementary school.

Mostly in a kindergarten classroom.

Apparently perpetrated by a 24-year old dude who had a thing against his mom, since he shot her and many of her 6-year-old students.

UGH.

This is SICKENING. How could anyone ever ever EVER get to a point where they think it’s a good idea to massacre kindergarteners???

Gross. Gross. Gross.

My soul feels all dirty and I just long so much for heaven, where children will run and never tire, laugh and never cry, and definitely not get shot just for showing up to school on the wrong day.

When tragedies like this happen, I always start to see the world as one big  juxtaposition. And at the time the horrific events occur, it always seems in my mind that the bad outweighs the good, and I say “quickly come, Lord Jesus!” with more longing than usual.

However, having gone through this several times now recently, I know that eventually the emotional overload will pass and this day will become just another horrible part of our nation’s history, and I will remember how people can be good again. And today, I was reminded of the goodness of people in advance.

This morning I met with my group of eight 9th graders. We meet every Friday as a part of their Christian high school’s discipleship program to spend time together, chat, laugh, pray and figure life out together. Today was the last meeting we have before Christmas Break, so some of the girls brought in treats and I had planned for us to have a little “Christmas story time” by watching Charlie Brown Christmas. So we sat down, grabbed some munchies, opened in prayer, and began our usual round-robin of updates.

This week, instead of our usual highs and lows, the girls wanted to share what they were doing for Christmas and in what I’m sure was a moment of Spirit-inspiration I added the question “What’s something that’s been on your heart lately?” I began by sharing my Christmas plans and then explaining how lately my heart has been worrying about future plans — what is my purpose in life? what am I put here to do? — but that God has been helping me learn to have peace even in the not-knowing. The girls nodded, and as we continued around the circle I found that there was quite a lot on our hearts recently. A best friend’s mother with an unknown illness. A grandmother with severe Alzheimer’s. A girl who had made some changes in her life and regained trust with her parents.

As we arrived at the last girl, she began with a deep breath and it became clear that something was weighing on her heavily indeed. “Well… things have been really tight financially in my family this year… my dad lost his job and we’re running out of money and my parents are really worried… they say we might only have one or two presents this year… and it’s hard because I don’t know if I should quit my sport… I just want to help, and I know it costs a lot…”

And then something amazing happened.

As Jessica (not her real name) poured out her worries, the others began to share their stories too. Stories of times when their parents were struggling financially, and when they didn’t know what to do.

Sensing a bit of the overwhelm, I said, “After all that I feel like I want to pray. Anybody else feel like they want to pray?” Silence. “Well let’s pray for a little bit and I’ll just leave some time and then I’ll close when we’re done.” I opened briefly and then just sat and listened.

“Lord, please be with Jessica and her family and help them to find more money so they don’t have to worry as much…”

“God, please help Jessica and her family through this hard time because we know that you don’t do this on purpose to be hard on them, but to teach them…”

“Father, give Jessica strength and comfort that you are there with her, and that you love her and her parents love her and that this isn’t her fault…”

By the end, Jessica was sniffling and my heart was bursting with love and appreciation for these wonderful, caring, supportive, strong, thoughtful humans. We didn’t even get to watch all of Charlie Brown — the bell rang literally 30 seconds before the Christmas story recitation scene (and the whole point of the movie)… but as I listened to Linus proclaim the story from Luke 2, I realized that we had seen the light of the Christ child anyway.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 

The REAL cure for affluence-related depression (maybe).

Rebekah recently ghost-wrote a post on the Connected Families blog.  The main thrust was this: in America, kids from families of wealth/luxury/affluence are three times as likely as the average child to experience anxiety or depression. That’s even more than families in poverty!

My best interpretation of this:

  • We’re miserable because:
    • We lack mission, vision, or a sense of purpose because our suburban bubble-world is already thoroughly comfortable and safe, so all we have to do is “enjoy”.
    • When our primary earthly mission is to “enjoy life”, then any time we’re unhappy, we think:
      • our unhappiness is a violation of our highest purpose and birthright,
      • it can only be explained as a failure by us, our family, or God,
      • and we should try to feel happy again by any means we feel necessary.

My sense is that ultimately, the best way for wealthy people to make their lives better is for them to stop focusing on making their lives better, and to look instead (or predominately) to the needs of the world.

  • We’d be happier/better off that way because:
    • Looking compassionately and fairly at our hurting, unjust, and jeopardized world is a limitless source of mission and purpose, of things to do that really, really matter.
    • When our primary earthly mission is “to live out (God’s) compassion and justice in a (beloved,) broken and beautiful world”, then any time we’re unhappy, we can recognize that:
      • our unhappiness is a natural occurrence in a broken world,
      • it connects us to hurting people everywhere,
      • and it reminds us to continue to live in ways that address human sorrow in general.

In the face of the anxiety, depression, and self-harm issues plaguing wealthy children and families, we might say “see, we’re just as needy as anyone in the world”, and invest more resources into meeting our own needs — say, through counseling or more after-school activities.

  • But this misses the point, because it follows the assumption that:
    • Money and service follow pity and misfortune. When I pity a poor person, I send them some money. But when I pity me, I spend more money on me. Whoever “has it good” should help whoever “has it bad”.
  • A truer assumption is:
    • We all live together in a world that has every kind of need and resource, pain and beauty, scattered everywhere and in diverse ways. We can work together across lines of difference to make our world better, and it will make each of us better in the process.

Buying therapies for the symptoms of idyllic luxury might work somewhat, but this is surely less effective than taking the sorts of actions that more powerfully undermine our (and our children’s) sense that everything should be perfect for us. To be more deeply healed, we must bring our bubble-dwelling families, churches, and communities to be involved in the messiness, pain, beauty, and need of the world — the REAL cure for affluence-related depression.