As a mom to two little boys, this is a question I ask often. When there is a suspiciously loud noise coming from another room, or when a just as suspicious quiet lasts for too long. When there is an onslaught of tears, a wrestling match gone wrong, raised tones or frustrated reactions, I swoop onto the scene and ask.
Truth be told, my main objective is to get to the bottom of things. Who set who off? Who wronged first? Who reacted poorly? Who egged the other one on? Because when it comes to being a parent, my first reaction is to try and fix. To make the situation requiring my attention as clear-cut as possible about who was in the right and who was in the wrong and then parent accordingly.
“Next time, do this,” I assure them, “and we won’t find ourselves here again.”
This past Sunday, the country, the world, asked the same question.
We turned on our televisions. We turned on our radio. We opened our computers and searched our phones. We logged on to social media in search of answers. And it was a matter of hours (or was it minutes?) before we began using our innocent initial question as a tool to get to the bottom of things, to make things as clear cut as possible, so we could know who needed reprimanding, who needed correcting, what needed to change, so we could ensure something like this terror and this tragedy wouldn’t happen again.
We ask questions to uncover the clarity we wish existed.
We wish it was all about guns. So we could pass some new legislation and reform a complicated situation.
We wish it was all about religion. So we could have some clarity over who to profile 100% of the time.
We wish it was all about mental illness. So we could work on coming up with better solutions and more open conversation on how to navigate this fragile topic.
We wish it was all about one targeted group. So we could work on protecting them better from hate and violence.
We wish we could draw clear lines about what exactly caused this so we could hurry up and fix this. But we can’t. Because it’s never all one thing and nothing else. Because the world’s brokenness isn’t fixable by landing on the most accurate “if” “then” statement.
If we simply reformed this, profiled this, addressed this, talked about this, protected this, then, this wouldn’t happen.
It’s a tempting response. And it’s admirable. It shows how desperate our need is, how deep seeded our desire is, for wholeness and recovery. A positive thing. A good thing. But sometimes I think our desire to know as much as possible in asking “What happened?”, pushes us to fix as fast as possible, at the expense of engaging. Of feeling. Of holding space in the hurting places.
When I rush in to referee my boys, in effort to restore order, it can be easy for me to miss that maybe, before I correct the offender, the hurt one needs to be held. When I sweep in to remind my kids of the rules our house operates under, sometimes I miss that they don’t need reminding of our family standard, but compassion for the frustration they feel at their little worlds being turned upside down by an unjust action.
Conflict with kids is rarely clean lines and easily maneuvered conversation. It’s wise to parent accordingly. And conflict in the world, pain in the world, is no different. It’s never black and white. I wish it was. I do. But it’s not.
But when we release our certainties into a virtual world, believing a solution most important and so visibly obvious, what if, in the process, we are overlooking desperately hurting people who may need our presence and our compassion more than a solution or an antidote?
What if the faster we move to make conclusive statements about what causes the kind of terror the world witnessed earlier this week, the more likely we are to lose a part of our humanity the world needs at moments like these, in a move towards wholeness?
There is a time for everything, Solomon wrote. There is a time to tear down and a time to build. He’s right. Certainly. And all of the potential solutions and possible causes need to be addressed and talked about. Absolutely, our time to build will come. And with it, the time to change. To improve. To dialogue. But first?
There is a time to mourn.
And a time to weep.
And a time to love.
And this. Maybe most of all this. A time to be silent.
Not silent in our support. Not silent in our fear. Not silent in our grief. Not silent in our confusion.
But silent in our innate need to want to fix it all as fast as possible to the neglect of the very deep pain that no amount of legislation, or ranting, or profiling will fix—at least not right away.
“What happened?” We asked Sunday. A valid question stemming from our “fixer” hearts, from our parent hearts, our human hearts that want so badly to believe if we could just arrange all the pieces of this tragedy just so we could make sure we were safe from such devastation again.
But brokenness is complicated. And healing isn’t fast. Because the pain we want to heal goes so much deeper than even we are capable of realizing in the immediate aftermath of loss.
Sometimes sitting in silence isn’t the remedy we want to fix the problem, but a step towards being present with pain.
Sometimes mourning alongside isn’t the quick solution we desire, but a necessary motion in the grieving process.
Sometimes weeping feels passive and defeatist in a time of action and outrage, but is actually closer to how Jesus responds to death, and the ache it brings, than anything else.
I just wonder if we have forgotten how to be quiet in the pain? Not for forever. But for a moment. I think the victims of Orlando deserve that—both those who lost their lives, and those who live physically, but are reeling from an emotional and psychological death, or wounding, we can’t possibly imagine.
I think there will be a time for building. But first for grieving. Grieving for the brokenness. For the pain. For the fear. For the hurt. For the uncertainty. For the confusion. And I think when we do this, we’ll see each other less as opposing or consenting ideological arguments and more as a human race. We’ll view one another less in social media statuses, and more as both scared and driven people who simply want the fear to subside and want to be a part of a solution to make it so.
I think when we grieve together we will be more likely to work together. Because grief is universal. We all get it. And the work that comes out of a processed—and not a bypassed—grief, is both productive and whole.
And ultimately, that’s what we want and need more than anything. To have traversed the pain, lived to tell about it, and then, only then, worked to remedy.