Hope In Fearful Times

justio paint mines

Flags fly at half-mast in my lifelong hometown, Colorado Springs after two mass shootings in a month. I drive almost every day through the intersection where my family almost stumbled into a late October shooting; and yesterday I forced myself to return to a shopping area we usually frequent, ravaged less than a week ago by another shooting. And today, like waves mercilessly beating a battered shore, news from San Bernardino bruises my soul.

Last night I pulled through a frozen dark night to pick up my son.

He isn’t even in the car yet, and he is saying, “Mom, there’s been another shooting.” I wrap my arms around him, awkwardly reaching around the interior of the car. I feel his heart beating against my chest.

“And this…” he hands me a letter from school administration:  a student committed suicide the previous night.

We sit in the dark, stunned together for a few moments. He wrestles, recalls two deaths in the prior year, both kids he knew. One murdered over a cell phone dispute, the other killed in a drunk driving incident. Now, billows of social chaos crash over these tender wounds:  mass shootings in our own town and national and international violence and instability.

How can a fifteen year old wrap his mind around what I cannot even begin to comprehend with a few more decades of experience and insight?

As we finally pull from the curb and make our way home, towards shelter, I tell him a story:  There was once a follower of Jesus in a boat. He saw Jesus walking on water, and leaped out of the boat to meet his friend. At first, he, too, stepped lightly across the impossible. But then he noticed the churning waves. Terror swept over him. He took his eyes off Jesus, and he sank. 

“Did he drown?” my son asks anxiously.

“Oh no,” I reply. “Jesus grabbed him and pulled him up.”

I pause.

“These are tough times. We can’t look at the waves. We’ve got to keep our eyes locked on Jesus.”

He nods. He understands. I listen to myself, because I need to hear it too.

Signs of hope are subtle in these troubled times.

Last week I jealously guarded an afternoon of my kids’ school break. I admit they were less than willing, but I loaded them in the car and we drove out East.

Plains sweep the horizon, punctuated only by giant windmill arms. Something about them feels harsh and lonely, spinning their arms endlessly.

Grass touches the sky somewhere in the distance. We find it hard to believe the location we seek is really there. My map promises we are three miles away, but cold gray clouds still stretch over wintering fields as far as we cans see.

“I promise there are rocks out here somewhere,” I tell my disbelieving passengers. Thankfully the one who least wants to come is asleep, oblivious to the lack of evidence.

We turn on an unremarkable dirt road. A parking lot clearly announces our arrival. Still the wind ruffles brown heads of grass all the way to the horizon. An icy wind prickles bare skin.

We follow a trail over a hill; and suddenly, most surprisingly, they are there, chiseled into a valley: rocks sculpted by wind and weather, exposed stripes of color where least expected. (click any photo to view larger)

There, in the glory of His creation, watching my children scramble over His handiwork, I remember what He looks like. Majesty stirs amidst the subtle colors of winter, over-powering drastic echoes of violence and fear. I remember there is still a Creator, a Sustainer, a Holder.

The sun is setting, chased away by frigid wind. Exposed skin loses feeling. We run down the trail, back to the car.

We laugh because we are alive, and we are together.

My eyes focus on Jesus.

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