Tragedy and Grief… Seeking Hope When Words Fail

I have found myself moving through a multitude of emotions since first hearing of the tragic shooting in an elementary school in Connecticut this morning.  There are no words that can adequately express the sense of horror and deep sorrow as the result of 28 precious lives coming to a sudden end through an act of violence.  I have found myself feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of this loss and the impact on this small community, and then feeling anger and outrage that such an act could happen yet again in our nation.  I have also been extraordinarily grateful for my two daughters, and again overwhelmed with the thought of, “what if this had happened here in my own community…”  I have needed to listen to their fears and questions, as well as their anger and frustration that they are growing up in a world that continues to make these kinds of violent acts possible.  It has been a time of hugging, crying, numbness, and simply needing to be in each others presence.

I found myself posting on a friends FB post about my book, Grieving Hearts in Worship, that not only did my heart ache, but I am weary of my own books relevancy.  I have been feeling this ever since the a nurse in Great Britain committed suicide after she had been fooled by two radio show personalities who called pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles wanting information on the condition of Princess Kate who was in the hospital.  I will be writing about this particular incident in the near future as acts of bullying continue to reach new dimensions, and the resulting grief…  So when my friend posted about my book, I wanted to hide under the covers, as I felt/feel woefully inadequate to find words that might make a difference.

I later found myself flipping through my book and found a few things that I offer to myself and to all who may read this, an offering of hope in the midst of such tragedy; when there is no rational explanation for such irrational acts.  “Whether we are responding to the violent acts that are occurring in other countries, shootings in our schools, gang violence taking over our streets, corruption in governments, or terrorist attacks, we need to come to God and stand together.  The Hebrew Scriptures give us a wonderful model of how to do this… The Psalms are full of laments and expressions of deep pain, sorrow and anguish, as well as the desire to punish evil doers.  Psalm 58 even asks that God would ‘break the teeth in their mouths.’  Saying or identifying violent desires does not mean that we act upon them.  It is a way of expressing outrage in a constructive manner.  Psalms of Lament are putting words to internal emotions and thoughts.  They help acknowledge the confusion and turmoil that exists as a result of the public tragedy.” (pg 145)

“Liturgy and ritual ceases to be empty and meaningless when the spoken words and actions of the various prayers and readings reflect what is happening in our lives, when they connect with our inner needs.  Transformation can come when we are able to name and identify the feelings and needs within us, and then lift them up to God.  When this can happen within communal worship, there can be the realization that we are not alone in our anger or outrage.  The liturgies and rituals can be an invitation to see the hope that is in God.  They can also invite us to reflect on what might be our role in bringing about change in our community, nation and world.” (pg 145-146)

With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following responsive prayer, “Where Are You God”, which is based on Psalm 22; this will be followed by a poem, “Anger”.  Both can be found in my book, but I offer them up now for others to freely use in this time of sorrow.  I only ask that you give the proper credit: written by Rev. Dr. Michael E Landon, published in Grieving Hearts in Worship, AuthorHouse, May 2012; used with author’s permission.

Leader: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?”

People: Abandoned, alone, empty, and deflated.  The love I have known; the life I have known; My sense of being; Of connection; Have vanished before my very eyes – No longer seem to fill the center of my heart.

Leader: “O my God, Ii cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”

People: God you promised to never leave me nor forsake me, so why do I feel so alone?  I cannot see your presence.  I cannot feel the warmth of your love.  You promised that love would never end.  Where has your love gone?  Why does this grief consume me?

Leader: “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.  In you, our ancestors trusted.  They trusted and you delivered them.  To you they cried, and were saved.  In you they trusted and were not put to shame.”

All: Save me O God, I need you now more than ever.  Save me.  Love me.. Fill me.  Let me feel you once again.

Silent Reflection

Anger

I feel the anger coursing through my veins

Anger pumping, growing, spreading with each beat of my heart

The anger wants out

Like a famished, caged lion

It wants to roar, to scream

To rip and tear

To devour everything in sight

Anger doesn’t want to listen or believe

Anger doesn’t want to hear words of comfort

It does not want to be soothed

Anger wants to lash out

It wants to inflict pain

So others will feel the pain

The pain anger seeks to hide and protect

Anger fills me with thoughts of revenge, hatred, cursing, and blame

Anger screams “how can this be, how can this be happening to me?”

“It’s not fair, it’s not right!”

When anger is spent

and the raging storm within settles

I can hear a still small voice saying

“You are loved,”

“You are not alone,”

“Let my love fill you and satisfy your every need,”

“Let my love bring you healing and peace”

The still small voice whispers, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”       Matthew 11:28-30

As always, I continue to hold you all in the healing light of God’s love…

Michael