A Necessary Response for a Believer to a National Tragedy
At the time I write this, over one-hundred thirty people have been injured and at least two killed after bombings that took place in Boston following the Boston Marathon. At this time, no suspects have been identified publicly, nor have any groups stepped forward to claim responsibility. In a post-9/11 United States of America, one that has seen a decade of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, most people would reasonably assume that this attack was carried out by violent Islamic groups, however no accusations have been made at this point to validate such an assumption.
The news of today’s attack immediately made me recall the feelings directly following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I was a teacher at a small, private Christian school in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas. As I was driving to work, the DJ’s on a local morning radio program were discussing a plane that had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. As I continued driving the second plane crashed into the other tower. Through the shock and sadness, I remember the awareness that swept my consciousness that thousands of people would be killed in retaliation for these events. Obviously, the years following these events have validated that premonition. Unfortunately, all of those feelings were re-awakened after the news of subsequent terrorist attacks until now. The next days were spent camped in front of broadcasts from cable news networks, devouring news papers for anything that could bring perspective, surfing web pages for any reporting that could offer something new.
In the now present fog between this incident and the time of clarity that will emerge as we gather news of those responsible for the Boston attacks and their motives, the temptation will be to sit glued to twenty-four hour news networks, slave over news outlets on our smartphones, tablets, and computers; and, no doubt, this type of investigation is somewhat necessary and even cathartic. Our very real sense of helplessness is assuaged by the constant search for information; however, I would suggest that there is a course of action that is healthier, more lasting, and can provide a greater sense of clarity then CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or NPR can offer.
Lost in our constant thirst for information, whether following incidents of national interest or just during our routine, daily existence, has been a practice so consequential for civilized life that our very society was birthed from it. We need to become people of real leisure, of meditation, or reflection.
Our English word “school” comes from the Latin schola, which in turn comes from the Greek skhole, “school, lecture, discussion,” but which also means “leisure” or “spare time.” Originally the word meant “a holding back, a keeping clear.”
Schools were intended to be a place not of constant business, but a place where a student who would otherwise be seen as a cheap and necessary source of labor could be free to “keep clear,” where the mind could wander and evaluate the input from his world, most notably the books to which he was exposed but also the events of the day. We live in a world governed by a mere forty hour work week, made efficient by all of the luxuries of the twenty-first century world. Our lives could be much more like these schools of old, however, all of the advances of technology and ready access to information have caused us to have little time for contemplation and in the process cause us to be reactionary rather than proactive.
God instructs us in Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and know that I am God.” Might I challenge you to take some time in the next few days to do just that? A great psalm that could guide your meditation is Psalm 103 in which God graciously reveals to us some of what He has done and what He will do. As we remember God and meditate on His word, our fears and uncertainty will turn into faith and reliance. Our trepidation about the future turns into hope for His glory to be consummated. Pray in a way similar to how Christ himself instructed us in The Lord’s Prayer. Remember His character as revealed in Psalm 23.
Grieve for those affected by this tragedy. Lift them up as intercessors before the throne of God. “Hold back” from a selfish need for information and stimulation. Do not avoid the feelings of sadness, of shock, of sympathy and empathy. Do not be made callous, but instead pray for God to soften our hearts with the oil and wine of His great concern and love. Don’t fill the space with your own empty words, but do pray as you are led. More importantly, listen. Listen to God’s word, and listen to His Spirit. In Luke 10, Martha making herself very busy and productive was annoyed by the insensitivity of her sister Mary who, instead of helping Martha with her endeavors, was sitting seemingly idle at Jesus’ feet. What was Jesus’ response? “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” May we so choose.