My heart is heavy. Last night I prayed myself to sleep... I couldn't sleep, images in my head of a toddler being torn from the hand of his mother by an unexpected wild animal, images of a hate-filled man taking 49 lives in a terrorist attack, an innocent woman being shot in the head after a concert. This flurry of violence and tragedy has hit the city of Orlando hard this week, it seems so sudden... and we all feel the ground shake beneath our feet. But then I remind myself that tragedy and violence and senseless loss happens every day in other places. My sister went to Uganda for three months and saw toddlers dying on the side of the road. Orphans thirsty and hungry and without family to love them, hold them, sing to them. Babies taking care of babies.
When alligators drag children into the water, we are naturally shocked and shaken and angered and ask God why. But let's not forget this happens every day... only they're not alligators, they're other human beings.
The world groans. People die. Meanwhile, I'm protected in my bubble of ease and comfort. I know I don't understand what it's like to live in a cardboard box next to a dirt road or have my baby ripped from my arms.
That's what makes it the hardest... feeling that pain. Crying yourself to sleep, conjuring images in your head, asking yourself, why not me? Why them and not me? what if it had been my child? My family? What if, what if, what if. It doesn't do any good to think and dwell, yet it doesn't feel right to not feel it. To not let myself ponder. As if my unease at the very thought helps the suffering people in the world, as if my empathy does anything.
I spent years in bondage to the fear of tragedy. I have stopped watching the news. I don't read true crime anymore, or watch shows like Dexter or Law & Order. I try not to read articles about tragic events (key word: try. It's been difficult this week.). But it's everywhere these days, if you are online, you simply cannot avoid it. And I feel like pull, this need to empathize. I am a melancholic, and I like to feel deeply. But sometimes, it hits me in places that are too deep, and becomes a part of my mind hour by hour, as often as the question of what is for lunch, when is nap time, and what book should I read next. What if.
Also, a need to "prepare." What would I do in this situation? How would I handle someone stealing my car with my children inside? How would I handle a home invasion or house fire? A drowning? A wreck? But that thinking helps no one. It certainly doesn't help me.
"Whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and honorable, think about these things." Philippians 4:8
So I've stopped. I have tried to stop thinking about the things that are outside of my control. I have tried to stop putting myself in the place of a grieving mother. It fills my head with a whirlwind of thoughts that spiral down and creates anxiety. I cannot help a grieving stranger with my grief. So I let myself feel those emotions, I cry, and then I move on. I stop reading the articles. And I pray.
One thing I love about the Catholic church is that they teach you can offer your suffering up to God as a prayer. This is the only redemption among tragedy that I have ever heard of. Tragedy seems so senseless, but to be able to offer up suffering as a prayer is so bittersweet.
Prayer is something that has changed my life significantly in the past year. I've never been much of a prayer warrior. I pray at desperate times. I worry instead of pray. But lately, I've been praying instead of worrying. I am certain it has much to do with the lessening of my anxiety.
So though it seems like trying to put out a forest fire with a bucket of water, I pray. I pray for grieving mothers. I pray for families torn apart. I pray for the hearts of those who are angry, lonely, confused, misguided, whose backs are turned from God. I pray instead of worrying. Worry does nothing, I know this to be a fact. But we will never have an idea of the impact our prayers make.
"Pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17