Maybe it was because it was 6 in the morning after a long and busy weekend. Or that it was Monday morning at the commencement of a long and busy week ahead. Or that I was bushed from running on the streets and ending up at the Y to lift. For whatever reason, I was flat on my back, looking up at the ceiling in the fitness room after a set of crunches, gasping for air and feeling the tiredness in my bones. But when I heard about the shootings in Chicago this weekend, and especially that a six-year-old girl, caught in the crossfire, was one of the fatalities, it really took the wind out of my sails. I thought of my own little girl, and of the horror this Chicago family must be feeling, and of the senselessness of it all.
It turns out this little girl was friends with the daughter of one of my friends who used to attend my church here in Philadelphia before they moved into inner city Chicago to minister there. This connection made more real this terrible loss, as did reading about it more from a member of the church my friend attends, which is trying to provide support at a time when all seems like it is falling apart. And, of course, I thought back, again, to my own kids, and to their friends, and my heart could not even bear to think too hard about losing one of them in this way.
Crime and violence is a problem everywhere, of course, but in our big cities there are neighborhoods in which it is absolutely dominating. Where we live is by no means in this category; though we are not far from such neighborhoods, we feel safe and we feel fortunate. I’m not sure I have the stomach to move to a more dangerous place, but I know many, including my friend now in Chicago, who have, and in doing so put themselves and their children in harm’s way in a very real sense to serve a high calling and practice a living faith.
We Christians have a mixed track record when it comes to being comfort and refuge for those who have been ravaged by life’s tragedies. Too many of us take refuge in our holy huddles, tsk-tsking from a distance (“they got what they deserve”) or offering hollow platitudes (“God must have a higher purpose in all of this”). When push comes to shove, I more often than not cringe at my own response and the response of others of my faith, and not often enough do I think we did right in a tough situation.
But, thankfully, what we can and should offer in times of great loss, is not our uneven track record, our finite care, or our fleeting wisdom. Rather, what we can and should offer is the empathy of a God who Himself lost a child, in a dramatic and excruciating way, and the empathy of a Savior who is not unfamiliar with grief and sorrow and loss and ruin. However imperfect we are as vessels of such love, the love itself is powerful enough to come through. I pray for such a love to pour forth to these affected families in Chicago, and for more vessels there and elsewhere who will carry that love to the heartbroken.