This “but” will change the world—and me. This is why I pray.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.

We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:33-39, The Message

I’m afraid to listen/watch/read the response to what happened in Orlando, because I don’t want to hear this one tiny word. And I am terrified that if I look, I’ll find it.

It’s terrible but they were gay
They didn’t deserve to die but they were sinning
I’m sorry it happened but it doesn’t directly affect me
It’s tragic but it shows the need for stricter laws
I’m praying for the people hurt by this hate crime but I’m not gay so it doesn’t really change anything for me

The thing is, this word isn’t only used about the people who died in Orlando. What about:

I love him but he’s gay
She needs to know God but I’m not going to get involved
I would love for you to come to church but you need to change first

Or

Our world sucks but there’s nothing I personally can do about it

This one little word seems to remove us from the pain, to justify our separation. I sat down at the computer today, not planning on writing a thing. It feels like I have nothing to say—and yet there is so much feeling. Nothing valuable to contribute except a burning desire not to let myself remain in a state of apathy. All I can summon at this moment is a prayer:

Oh, Lord, we are desperate for you today. We’re quick to be outraged—and I believe most of us genuinely feel the pain of such a wrenching and tragic loss. But how long will it last before we move on? I don’t know what to do with my feelings, with this horror and sorrow. I don’t know where to go. Prayer seems woefully inadequate. Debating gun control and Islamic extremism and homosexuality seems to be the likely outpouring after violence of this magnitude. But then what? What have we solved? All we will have done is to separate again on the dividing lines of a political issue.

When are we (as a culture, as society, as a religion, as a human race) going to change? To be spurred to radically change an environment in which hatred reigns?

When will we discover ways to act in love? To do as Jesus prayed we would—to help the world believe all that He said is true, that He is who He claimed to be—and as a result, that everyone will believe. That the world will find hope and will be able to seek true change.

When we will understand that there is no “but” in your promise to love us, to adore and reach out to each of us, no matter what terms we use to define or identify ourselves?

And when will we stop using the word “but” to justify not acting? Not loving? Not welcoming and nurturing and accepting?

You are not a God of exclusion but one of inclusion.

Because of that, I have a place to rest when I’m overwhelmed with grief. I can lean in to you, sheltered by Your grace and comforted by Your mercy. Even me. The one who has accepted your generous and stupendous offer of love—even though I didn’t (and can’t) earn it.

I fail regularly—but You love me anyway.

I sin. Lie. Fail to act. Miss opportunities. Find excuses not to serve you. Forget to pray when things are good. I’m the one who gets self-righteously angry at those who judge—but finds herself judging just as harshly.

And at last we get to the only but that matters, the one that trumps everything else.

But You love me anyway. Without exclusion. Period.

And You love Edward Sotomayor Jr. And Stanley Almodovar III. Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo. Juan Ramon Guerrero and Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera and Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz. And the others who are nothing more than random combinations of consonants and vowels to most of us—until we look online at the photos and read the descriptions of each of the victims. Until we look at the eyes smiling out of the computer screen and understand that these are real people, real souls, real lives ended out of hate. That this is senseless and tragic and that real people are facing the very real absence of people they love.

But You are bigger than our excuses and greater than our failures and near to us in our pain.

And as offensive as it feels to me to acknowledge this, I know you feel love, too, for the shooter. Your particular type of love is one that is so far beyond us that I fear we’ll never be able to grasp it. But please, Lord, let us try to understand.

Your love is all-consuming, enveloping, without limit or exclusion. No buts at all. Whether it’s true or not, I can’t help but feel like we’ve all failed, somehow—horrendously and irredeemably. We are all part of this culture, this atmosphere of division and exclusion, whether we actively contribute to the hatred or not. Forgive us, Lord. Comfort us, Lord. Give us hope and inspire us to find ways to keep this from happening again. It certainly feels like a losing battle, but Your Word tells me You have overcome the world. That You have victory over all evil and hatred and pain.

So I hold on to that today, even if the promises seem impossible. Even if the news feeds seem to broadcast a different story. I hold on to You. I’m heartbroken and helpless and I feel lost. But You are right here. You whisper words of comfort and wrap Your arms around the mourners. You are not rejoicing but, instead, feeling the collective pain of this world that is broken and troubled and misguided and hurting.

Sweet, sweet Lord, forgive us. Hold us. And never, never stop loving us or teaching us how to bestow such a tender, valuable gift on every single person in our lives. Amen.

One Response to “This “but” will change the world—and me. This is why I pray.”

  1. Samantha H. says:

    Thank you for sharing these powerful words!

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