by Laurie Gudim
Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation. – Psalm 85:7
Three nights ago, at the Fort Collins vigil for those killed or wounded in the Orlando shooting, Rabbi Shoshana Leis sang, in what she described as an ancient traditional chant of lamentation, the last words texted by Eddie Justice to his mother. The leaky grey sky had produced several rainbows that day, but right then it was drizzling. We all stood together, people of many faith traditions or none, gay, straight, queer, transgender, bi, a rainbow of skin colors, ethnicities, abilities and ages. We stood together and prayed as she sang, “Mommy I love you. In nightclub they shooting. Trap in bathroom. Pulse. Downtown. Call police. He’s coming. I’m going to die. He’s in the bathroom with us. He’s a terror. Yes.” This chant spoke profoundly of horror and impotence and love. Eddie Justice did indeed die. It also spoke my own heart completely. No other words were necessary. This was a lamentation we all shared. We were united in grief and remembrance.
It is moments like this that fill my heart with hope for our future as a nation. We who were standing in that downtown square in the rain undoubtedly held a plethora of divergent outlooks and beliefs. And yet we prayed with each other, letting our anguish and our helplessness be our communication with the Holy. We acknowledged the worst we can do to one another, the terror we can become to each other, the frustration and the fear. We put ourselves in relationship with something larger than ourselves, called by different names by each of us, that is profoundly untamed and deeply mysterious. And we were just there, with God, on that bedrock of horror, impotence and love, together.
Our nation has changed rapidly over the past few decades. Our awareness of the world beyond us has expanded as well. We can’t go back to some idyllic safety; we know too much now. Collectively, we’ve seen too much. And, instinctively we know that there are no simple answers. We stand on the bedrock of helplessness and vulnerability. We know we cannot do what is demanded of us next alone.
We are being called to a change of understanding and a transformation, both of ourselves individually and of our places of worship and our towns. What will save the world now is not just talk about love but learning how to embody it all the time, how to choose it in each moment of our lives. And it has to be a toothy, in-your-face kind of love, a love that does not back down.
Yet this transformation is impossible. We cannot learn this love, not on the scale that is required of us. We are doomed by our failings: our remorseless greed, our phobias, and our aggressive natures, to name a few.
Jesus agrees. He said to his disciples that people just can’t make changes in themselves that are really big. It’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to the perspective called the kingdom of heaven. But then he went on to say something else. What is impossible for humans alone is possible in relationship with God. With God all things are possible.
So we stand on the bedrock of our helplessness , our horror and our sorrow, and we pray. Bring us into deeper relationship with you, O Most Holy Creator. Open our hearts and transform us. And use us not only as we will become in your love but as we are right now in this moment, today. Use us to transform your anguished world. In the name of your Son, who became human that we might become divine. Amen.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: photo by Laurie Gudim of gathering in Fort Collins