Last night when I put my daughter to bed, she told my wife and me that she didn’t want us to worry about her being shot at school. We don’t either. When she said this, I felt my heart breaking and it took almost everything out of me to keep my mind from descending into despair. It is moments like this when I am grateful for anger. Because that’s what I really feel right now after another school shooting. This time it happened in Colorado, a mere 30 miles from where I live and just two weeks after schools were closed because of a threat to the area during the 20th Anniversary of the Columbine massacre.
There are so many feelings swirling in my mind right now. Many exacerbated by the fact that I am a pastor and for better or worse, when tragedies like this occur, I feel like I am supposed to know what to say. But I don’t really. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. All I want to do is yell at the world. But what will that do? Instead I just blasted a hip-hop beat in my borrowed car and freestyle rapped about how angry I am and how I wish Jesus was here flipping tables in the churches and letting people know that anger is the appropriate feeling for crap like this.
When I dropped my oldest off at school this morning, I wasn’t half a mile down the road before I thought about going back and pulling her out. Thoughts crossed my mind about starting a movement where every parent in America pulled their kids out of school and everyone who loves children more than guns refused to work or participate in our system until we did something about this insanity. But then I thought about how many poor people who rely on school so they can work low paying jobs would then have to pay the harshest price since they most likely have no safety net. And how if something did happen to their children they would have to go back to work in three days or risk losing their jobs. That just made me angrier. So in defeat, I kept on driving feeling like I imagine my dad felt when he dropped me off to go to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). And that made me angrier, because sending your child to school shouldn’t feel like you might be sending them off to war.
By the time I got home, I thought I had talked myself down, but then I thought about how I had come to believe that my daughter was safer in this community than I was growing up. As I’ve written as recently as yesterday, I grew up suspecting that I would be killed before 18. I never thought I’d be worrying about the same thing for my children in the suburbs of Boulder for God’s sake. And God knows I am trying to banish the thought, but it is triggering things in me. I don’t want to call it PTSD. But it is something. And I need to make peace with it. So in order to do that, I am taking the following steps adding to them as new steps arise. So far they are:
- Accept that I am angry and that it is the most honest way I can feel right now.
- Write out my feelings because I know myself enough to know that if I don’t let them out this way, they may come out in a less productive way later.
- Examine myself to see if there is anything in my own consciousness or belief systems that adds to the atmosphere that makes things like this possible.
- Hug and kiss my family as much as possible and let them know I love them every chance I can.
- Remember that fear can’t drive out fear. Similar to Dr. King’s teaching that hate can’t drive out hate. Only love can do that.
- Anger but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26). Use the awareness that anger is offering me productively. Make the energy of anger count for something.
- Let the anger go when it no longer serves.
- Forgive us for we know not what we do.
I’ll be honest and say that what I’ve written here is more for me than it might be for others at this point. But in organizing my thoughts, perhaps it will help me to be more available to others should they need to process some of what their feeling.
As I said in a facebook post, at this point, my anger has me feeling like I don’t even want my own thoughts and prayers. I feel like if I were God, I’d turn on my voicemail and leave a message asking, “Why do you expect me to listen to your prayers when you don’t listen to your own?” Thankfully God is not like that. So I will pray and ask for guidance because what else can I do with these feelings?