I turned on the TV this morning to the news that 50 people lost their lives and 400 were injured in a Vegas shooting at an open air concert. This is the moment when I choose how to react. This is the moment when I sit still and decide how I feel about this because I have a choice. If that sounds strange to you let me explain it the way it was explained to me: A friend of mine once asked me how I’d feel if he spat on me. Without hesitation I told him I’d be pissed off. He said, “No, you’d feel wet. That’s the only part you don’t get to choose. You could laugh, or cry, be mad, or confused. The only sure thing is that you’d feel wet.” As goofy as that sounds, was the first time I’d ever considered that I could choose how to react. That was the day I started taking ownership of my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to own me.
So today I am sad for all those effected by the shooting because I can’t afford anger. Now don’t get me wrong, angry people have changed the world–some for the better and some for the worse but I cannot afford to live that way. When I harbor those feelings they turn on me like a boomerang and I self-destruct. I can’t afford anger because anger blurs my vision and turns my world into us and them. It separates me from God, and others by convincing me that I am better, different, or more important than I am.
I get it though. I get that some people are mad as hell. I get that some are calling for gun control and some are calling for better mental health care. I get that some are angry at those who would simplify a complex problem to one issue which might not have changed this outcome in any way. I get it when someone says, ” Our thoughts and prayers aren’t DOING anything.” I get it and I’m going to pray anyway because my experience has proved that prayer changes me.
I looked up some definitions for prayer this morning and they were all pretty much what I expected until I came upon a quote by Dr. Ralph Martin which reads, “Prayer is, at root, simply paying attention to God.” There it is. In a world where there are thousands of distractions, I take time to pay attention to God and that shapes my other actions. Sometimes it keeps me just this side of unbearable and some days I am inspired to take thoughtful actions or to practice patience or to give of myself more generously. Prayer changes the world one person at a time and that person has the power to influence others whether that is through protest, or example, or interaction. There’s more than one way to heal the world but for me that starts by taking my powerlessness to the All Powerful so that I can be given the serenity, courage and wisdom to act.
God bless you all on this very sad Monday. Amen.