Early this morning, I put my middle schooler on a bus. She still lets me take her to the bus stop (as long as I stay in the car). Everyday I pray as the 20 kids board the bus that they will be kind to one another and to themselves. They are long-time experts in active shooter drills. We acknowledge them, but I tend to minimize them because their normalcy breaks my heart.
Later this morning, I put my second grader on a bus. We still hold hands on the walk to the stop, she still plays with her classmates once we arrive. Almost 30 kids board the bus everyday – from tiny kindergarteners to lanky fifth graders. She is becoming an expert in active shooter drills too. But because she is the age of some children who were shot to death yesterday in Texas, I couldn’t help calculating that the number of kids who didn’t come home last night in Uvalde was about 2/3 of the children on our bus. I kept thinking about how sad my second grader is for school to be ending soon because she loves her teacher so much – and how traumatized my daughter would be if her teacher had died shielding my daughter and her classmates. The more I picture standing outside that school waiting for news of my child’s fate, the closer I feel to crumbling in sobs of grief.
Yesterday, I did what we always do after a tragedy. I quoted scripture on social media in the wake of the news. “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence is everywhere!’ I cry, but you do not come to save.” (Habakkuk 1.2) This morning as the bus pulled away, those words echoed in my ears, “How long, O LORD?”
The response from God was stark, “I don’t know. You tell me!” I cried out to God yesterday and this morning for help to end this awful system of violence. In response, God reminded me I am God’s feet and hands in this world. If I want the violence to stop, I can and should certainly pray. But my prayer must in part be a prayer to summon political courage to actually do something. And not just for me, but for all of us – those who would have us get rid of every gun in this country and those who would fight to the death for their guns – and everyone in between. This problem is for all of us. We are all to blame for massive shootings. How? Because in doing nothing, in finding no common ground at all, we are simply praying until the next massive shooting happens. Whether you need to imagine your own children or your own childhood teacher in the faces of those who have died, allow the utter sorrow and pain to pierce your soul today so that tomorrow you do something – anything – to make a change. And if you really want to make an impact, find someone whose opinion on gun control is different from yours and start talking about what you can do together to make a change. That’s my prayer for us today. That we start answering the question, “How long?” with “I change it today with you.”