Yes, I am outraged at the news of yet another school shooting. Realizing that 17 families are experiencing indescribable grief because their son, daughter, parent, or spouse was brutally murdered in school keeps me awake at night and fills my mind during the day.
I think of young people seeing the deaths of their friends and being escorted out of the school, leaving their classmate’s or teacher’s body behind. Death came so suddenly, unmercifully. I imagine being a first responder who desperately rushes into a nightmare, the very thing they rehearsed countless times but never expected to experience. They rush to save lives, knowing they are risking their own lives. If safe places really exist, then a school should certainly be one of them. But this school will never be called “safe” again.
The media is full of comments from local, state, and national officials, mostly politicians, many offering solutions we’ve all heard before, but each one saying how this cannot be allowed to happen again. I’ve even seen actors and sports personalities offering their on-camera comments as if they are an expert in the field. Some people, like me, in the wake of the shooting offered encouragement for prayer on Twitter, while others say prayer and good wishes will do nothing.
Perhaps I am a bit cynical. After all, I recall the pain we experienced following Columbine, Red Lake, Sandy Hook and so many others. I’ve spoken on each from the pulpit, personally offered on-scene pastoral counseling at two sites, and I’m left with memories that haunt me especially when another shooting takes place.
At the risk of sounding like countless others, I do have an opinion. After working with families for some 40 years, I’ve seen family dynamics change. Many more forces compete for a family’s time than I saw decades earlier. For example, there was a time when television offered us four or five program choices nightly. Nothing was pre-recorded or on DVD and certainly we could not download a movie. Now we have 150 channels and unlimited viewing options. And I’m continually surprised at the number of sports opportunities available. Just when I think there can’t be anymore, I hear of a practice for a sport I need to look-up because it is new to me. Young people are encouraged by their peers to be fully engaged, parents want their children to have every opportunity to succeed, and society rewards those who excel. The young person without an opportunity to take part with their peers, or who lacks the social gifts to fit in often struggles to develop healthy friends and lifestyle choices. Yet it is not television or sports that leads to a massacre in a school.
To succeed as a parent, our children must succeed, or so many believe. Some parents are living vicariously through their children. They put too much pressure on children when they try to live out their own dreams through them. Choices need to be made and today parents are often supporting the choices their children make rather than making choices with or even for them. In earlier generations, families worshiped weekly together, parents took part in Bible Class, and children attended Sunday School or Confirmation Class. These were not choices. They were part of the family dynamic. If a member of that family suffered physically or mentally, the extended family or church members or even the larger community stepped up to help. Parents believed the proverb:
Train up a child in the way he should go;
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
Unfortunately, many families are simply not healthy themselves or ill-equipped to meet the needs of their children. Then that parental or family help is often replaced by overloaded social agencies or even the local police. As effective and well-trained they often are, they are not a replacement for the family or the church. Children in need are best served by their family and church. When these are lacking, life becomes that much more difficult to negotiate successfully.
Here is a scripture to consider:
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects. Hebrews 12:5-6
And of course, I have to add a request that you join me in prayer:
You are the Prince of Peace, as always our refuge in times of distress…please bring comfort to our schools and our nation. Be with the families, friends and teachers, and colleagues of those young students and dedicated teachers murdered in Parkland, as well as the injured, first responders, and this grieving nation. May a nation in crisis be granted your wisdom to bring justice to those who are evil and compassion to those in anguish. Grant our leaders wisdom, words and actions that will heal, end violence, and support those with indescribable needs. Please strengthen our churches and our families. Please give each of us the courage to act wisely and compassionately as we go through our days that may, or may not, be ordinary and please grant us an ever-growing faith.
Hear us Lord, Amen.
I’ll see you in church