I’ve walked around this week with a glaze over my eyes. My heart has been unsure of how to grasp the weight of everything happening in Thousand Oaks, the community where I spent nearly 4 years of my life learning… in every sense of the word. I am living 100s of miles away, and for days felt like all I could do was simply sit and watch people I love and admire ache with loss of people and then, soon after, with loss of property too. I felt like darkness kind of came in and slowly started pressing its hands against my throat until I wasn’t getting oxygen.
And I didn’t fight back. For some reason I felt like it was wrong to fight back—like it was disrespectful to. It was one of my best friend’s birthdays the day following the mass shooting, but it felt inappropriate to celebrate her or tell the world how loved she is while everyone we loved was mourning. It felt wrong to dance and sing at a concert while people we loved were scrambling and evacuating. It felt improper to share the goodness of my life when so much goodness had been shot or was being burned to the ground.
Quickly I began to feel disoriented. It was like I was trying to put blackout curtains over windows of my life. But I realized that the Enemy, the master of manipulation Himself (John 10:10), would like us to believe we will be swallowed up in darkness. That’s how he works. He wants us to get really good at living in the dark. He wants us to think we must adjust our eyes to the shadows when our electricity goes out instead of simply lighting a candle or setting up a lantern. But the thing about darkness is, if it’s dark enough or if you sit in it long enough, the light hurts at first. It’s like walking out into the sun after sitting in a dark room or turning on the lights too soon after waking up on a dark morning. It’s uncomfortable. But… it’s a lot better for your eyes. And it’s a lot easier to match your socks. And it’s a lot easier to read and work and make coffee.
So my heart, in its confusion, watched as everyone I knew started uniting in ways I hadn’t seen up close in a long time. I watched from afar as people opened up homes to strangers and took days off to spend hours collecting donations and driving them to volunteers and evacuees. I watched as people rescued animals and put them in their Mini Coopers. I watched people have honest, difficult conversations about the politics of mass violence and end them with love and respect. And I was reminded that love wins. It always wins (1 Corinthians 13).
It’s confusing to mourn and hold on to hope. I’m not sure how you let yourself feel complete sadness and still let yourself be filled with a radiant joy. I’m still a work in progress figuring it out. But I know that Jesus set that example, even when I don’t know how He did it.
In John 11, Jesus is told that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary is ill. We know from the beginning that Jesus loves Lazarus, because the sisters send for Jesus by saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11:3). We also know that Jesus sees the illness of Lazarus as being filled with hope and power, as He says, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). But by the time Jesus arrives to Bethany, where they live, Lazarus has been dead for over four days already. Mary soon enough comes to Jesus weeping, and when He sees her and the people with her crying, “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33), and so He weeps (John 11:35). Jesus takes the time to stop, feel His own emotions and feel the emotions of the people around Him. He feels the weight and depth of the sadness. However, by verse 38, Jesus is “deeply moved again.” This time though, Jesus moves in hope—He goes to the tomb, demands that the stone is rolled away, lifts up his eyes to thank God, and then calls for Lazarus to come out.
Jesus knew before the death of Lazarus that He was going to raise him from the dead. So why weep? Why not hop straight to action? Why not immediately rally everybody? Because I think there’s a power that comes with acknowledging sorrow, fear, anger, or heartbreak. There’s a power that comes with acknowledging it but overcoming it and learning to not ever operate from it. We must enter in to both the dark and light. We must know the difference between them. And then, we must choose to understand that light is always better.
So I refuse now to let darkness creep in, spin me around, or disorient me. I will find it and cannonball in. And then, I will choose to leave and never let it stop me from celebrating or dancing or hoping ever again.
Please Note: Below are a couple resources if you are looking for ways to support the Thousand Oaks/Malibu communities that have been hurt from the Borderline Mass Shooting and the following wildfires.