Hope and Love
My beautiful baby grandson went to church on Sunday morning, November 5, 2017. Together with his mom and dad, they celebrated his first 2 months of life on this planet at church. He is my returned son’s son. His name is Craig Robert Schultz III. Trey. Craig the 3rd. Craig Junior Junior. “Treyvon”, as we lovingly refer to him.
He was at church, resting in his mama’s lap, when our son sent us this picture.
The very thought of him in church, soaking in the Presence of God and the ministry of the Word makes me lightheaded. My eyes fill with tears and my nose turns a not-so-attractive red as I choke back tears of triumph for his life and the lives of his Jesus-loving parents, who chose to wrap up this beautiful bald-baby boy and place him in a car seat and drive him to church on a November morning. It’s just so much easier to stay home.
Like my granddaughter, I marvel at how much Trey looks like my own babies. I suppose this is the way all grandparents feel. It’s like a sweet dessert you never anticipated after a satisfying meal. You thought you had your fill, but the sweetness just keeps the feast going.
We raised our babies in the pews of the same church their entire childhood. Literally. There is a faded mauve-colored padded pew with a drool stain from the days where we would lay our kids down on the third pew to the far right and let them sleep when Sunday evening service went long past their bedtime. I want that pew. If our church ever gets rid of them, I call the drool-stained pew. I’m nostalgic like that.
Shortly after receiving this text from my son, I learned of the latest bullet-storm that mowed down the lives of worshipping men, women, children and babies sitting in the worn pews of their own “sanctuary.”
In Sutherland, Texas, a worshipping mama held her precious baby and gazed into his eyes, making “cariños” with her baby, just like my own beautiful bald grandson and his mama, when a hailstorm of bullets cut her life short. Maybe her husband had just snapped a picture of his baby’s face and texted it to his mom. Maybe his mom lost her ever loving mind with love for the face captured in that pew.
A few weeks ago, in Las Vegas, a country-music-loving husband held his wife’s hand as a hailstorm of bullets cut his life down. A week ago, in New York City, a son walked down the street and was mowed down by a Home Depot rental truck, meant for building something. A few days ago, in Thornton, Colorado, a daughter cowered under her register as confusing, loud “pops” proved to be gunshots as she paid for her items.
A sacred space in a sleepy Texas town, a country music festival on the Vegas Strip, a bicycle path near the World Trade Center, a Walmart Supercenter. Spaces where ordinary, everyday, beautiful life unfolds.
Sacred life cut short. Unimaginable, unfathomable, incomprehensible loss.
Is it just me, or does it seem a dark violence has recently descended upon us in full force? A brooding storm of violent attitudes, words and action have opened like a Marvel Universe movie. A thief, whose purpose is to kill and to steal and to destroy, is flaunting his ugly, evil purposes in shameless plain sight.
I’m tempted to pull my loved ones close via a group text and urge them to stay safe. Stay home. No place is safe. But the reality is, their lives unfold on sidewalks, stores, venues and church pews.
Instead of retreating, I am compelled to answer the violence with love.
My answer for these dark days is to love this world more than ever in the name of the wounded One who gave His very life for every person rocked by these tragedies. He longs to reveal stunning mercy in the face of hateful tragedy. My heart is lifted above the heavy violent fray by the love and hope of Jesus.
My peace is in Him alone.
Tim Keller said it best in Walking with God through Pain and Suffering: “Only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace. Grief was not to be eliminated but seasoned and buoyed up with love and hope.”
In this wake of bullet-storms, we all look for some”thing” to fix this mess we find ourselves in. We long for legislation and control to fix the sin-sickness. Engaging with even the most important conversations and debates leave us strangely unsatisfied.
The “thing” we need is the “One" found in Isaiah 53.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering,
and familiar with pain
Like one from whom people hide their faces
He was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
And bore our suffering,
Yet we considered him punished by God,
Stricken by him,
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace was on him,
And by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to our own way;
And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
Yet he did not open his mouth;
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
And with the rich in his death,
Though he had done no violence
Nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
And though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
He will see his offspring and prolong his days,
And the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
He will see the light of life and be satisfied;
By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
And he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
And he will divide the spoils with the strong,
Because he poured out his life unto death,
And was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
This One who suffered violence is the One in whom I place all my trust as violence brings suffering.
This One who takes our pain, who suffers with us is where I take my pain in the face of violence. This One who was crushed and took all the punishment to bring us peace is where I find my peace in the midst of violence. This wounded One who brings healing to unimaginable sickness and pain is where I turn for healing from the wounds of violence.
This One who poured out His very life for the sins of this world is where I turn.
In the face of unimaginable brokenness, I cry out to the One who is near the brokenhearted. The One who is near and the One who saves crushed spirits.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I grieve with the loved ones whose precious sons and daughters walked the sidewalks of New York City and now will not sit at their holiday tables. I grieve with the children whose moms and dads travelled to Las Vegas to sway to their favorite music and now will never dance again. I grieve with the siblings of precious brothers and sisters who quickly tucked into their Walmart at the end of a long weekend and now will never shop again. I grieve with the grandmas who will forever ache for beautiful babies in church pews.
I grieve with hope.
I grieve and I offer the hope and love found in Jesus.