A few weeks ago, there was a shooting in our quiet Houston neighborhood. It was random and terrible. I hurried our kids inside and made them sit in the room that seemed safest. I had to explain to the five-year-old what was happening because he was unwilling to come inside just because I had told him to. So I blurted out, “There is a man outside with a gun. And he is shooting people.”

houston shootingThus began several hours of questions about who and why the bad guys exist. Our son kept asking me, “Why is this happening? Why haven’t they caught them yet? Is he mad at us?” After a solid 15 minutes of me saying, “I don’t know,” I realized I was going to have to do better.

In our household we have a protocol when someone gets in trouble. If you have kicked your little sister or she has decided to try to knock your lights out, we often do “time out” with a little chat. And in that didactic moment, we tell our children that they cannot enact violence against one another. We remind them that they are loved. Because it is in the forgetting that sin finds a way in.

In that moment of our son begging for answers to one of the world’s oldest questions I said to him, “The man outside is shooting guns because he has forgotten how much God loves him. So he is doing bad things.”chef gourmand

In children’s minds, bad guys wear capes and have villainous names. They are handily defeated before anything becomes too scary. They are easy to distinguish. They are different from us. But this was not an episode of Wild Kratts. This was real life. And our son desperately needed an answer for why this was happening. Why were we not protected? Why was this man trying to hurt us?

Real life does not have the neat convenience of cartoon villains. People who kill one another are other people. They are acting out of anxiety and fear, hurt and blame, all because they have forgotten how loved they are. This is sin in a nutshell. We yell at our children in grocery stores because we are anxious that they will embarrass us. We murder a room full of people because we are driven by hatred and fear. In either case, we have denied our own belovedness for the sake of relentless self-satisfying sin.

I have been almost unable to look at any news about the shooting in Orlando. I know that part of my difficulty comes from the fact that we just experienced a shooting personally. But I also know it is the number that has pushed my sadness further. Fifty souls were taken in a matter of minutes. Fifty sons and daughters. Fifty friends and lovers. Fifty people were murdered. I cannot stop thinking about the massive impact this will have on their families and friends. So much possibility has been taken away and unimaginable pain has been caused. All of it because a crazed man, gripped by evil and sin, forgot how beloved he was and so failed to see the belovedness of those around him.

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The response has been quick and heartening. We are reminding one another that love rules the day. Yet, to be honest, it does not feel that way. It feels very horrible and pointless. I have a hard time claiming any victory in light of such a catastrophic loss. This event reminds me only that no matter how low my anthropology is, it can always be lower. Pain can always cut deeper. People can always sin bigger. It is just too soon for me to feel anything but deep sadness.

I understand our need to proclaim love amidst the ruins. I echo it with all my heart. My hope, though, is that we go further than the generic–that we can be specific about the love we intend when we haul out this word for the sake of our comfort. The love we proclaim must be bigger than us, the kind of love that makes no guarantees about this world getting better but promises us a world to come where our belovedness is never questioned, a world where we never hurt or yell or murder. The love we cling to is a love that cannot be earned, a love that seeks us out in our moments of greatest darkness, and it is a love that will not let us go. In this moment, that is all the hope I have.