My Prayer for Charleston, South Carolina
I often write out my prayers, and I am posting mine from this morning, because I think that there are a lot of people like me - who feel like they don't have a lot to contribute to this conversation, but want to be able to express compassion and sympathy as best as they can without feeling guilty for not being as knowledgeable as the loudest voices out there.
I woke up this morning knowing that I needed to pray for my brothers and sisters in Charleston, but not knowing how. Knowing that I wanted to say something - something that would, at the very least, get lost in the crowd - but that would be there to be lost, nonetheless.
I must confess that my ignorance of the longstanding, deep-rooted issues that may have been related to fueling this tragedy - let alone the injustices before it - have left me, at best, feeling completely inadequate to speak anything into them and, at worst, condemned and afraid.
But I have followed the horrors closely. This morning, David Bazan was asked via Twitter what his thoughts are on an appropriate response from White America. He answered, “Amplify black voices. Love justice. Risk being wrong in support of the oppressed. Amplify black voices.”
Maybe the umbrella that Charleston’s shooting falls beneath is more than a black issue, but it is not less than that, and God, how I have hated the way that fear of being wrong paralyzes my ability to take a step toward even the risk of it.
Lord, I hate the way that devil’s advocacy paralyzes my ability to come to the conclusion that it is okay to weep over suffering, even if I cannot fully comprehend its root. Or the way that self-preservation would keep me from commentary when I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that murder and racism and hate and the degradation of men and women created in your image with inherent and inexpressible value and worth are evil and abhorrent and in direct contradiction to the kingdom you have asked your children to participate in establishing, and the ways by which you will come to reconcile all things to yourself.
Lord, let not a lack of understanding work itself out as indifference, even for those of us whose action may be as simple as this prayer, or a moment’s attempt to sympathize with the suffering of others, even if empathy is not possible.
Lord, let not fear give way to apathy, even if action, for some of us, only proves to mean that we are willing to be another voice in a crowd of mourners seeking to voice condolence and compassion.
God, if it is true that you have created each of us in our context and time, sovereignly, specifically, then I am not a part of a long legacy of oppression because you have not placed me there. But you have placed a great many men and women that I deeply respect in that timeline, and their testimonies have broken my heart, and their boldness has lit a fire inside of its passive beat to, at the very least, put the effort into the prayer that your image-bearers deserve.
So this morning, tears. Devastation. A weeping with those who weep. I pray that you, Lord Jesus, Suffering Servant, would be Sympathetic Savior to the lives that have been shattered by last night’s events in Charleston. I pray that other churches would come alongside Mother Emanuel in real and helpful and restorative ways that are an expression of your promised renewal when suffering will be redeemed for glory. I thank you for the ways in which the community has already done this.
Your gospel is still the only hope I see in this place, and I thank you for the embrace with which you met those lost in this tragedy last night. They will never be lost to you.