As I drove south on Interstate 85 yesterday on my way home from work, I was in the middle of a phone call as a parade of police cars and ambulances came flying by. Weaving their way through traffic and sirens blaring, I was struck by how the sound pierced the silence of my car.
I didn’t have my music on since I was talking with my friend Sam, and in the moment they passed me by, I remember telling him, “I’m not sure what’s going on, but it must be something serious.”
And then silence.
Pausing to pray to the Lord about whatever would cause an emergency, there was this momentary silence again, lingering like an early morning fog.
Of course, once I arrived home I found out the reason for the urgency. There had been an active shooter on the campus of UNC Charlotte. In that moment of pure evil, the gunman opened fire on a classroom of students, killing 2 and wounding 4 others.
Another tragic loss of life that seems to catch us by surprise, even though it feels like we see this story way too often.
After taking a day to pray and meditate on my thoughts, I was drawn back to that silence. It actually took me by surprise because I drive a 1996 Nissan Sentra. Surrounded by vehicles on the rush hour drive home, the drive is anything but silent. My vehicle doesn’t glide down the highway. It shakes a little, wind coming through the door panels to remind you that everything ages and isn’t as fit as it once was.
But all of that had been turned to background noise, not even registering in my senses because I am used to that drive. Plus, my conversation was taking up the part of my attention that my focus on the road in front of me wasn’t.
Then those lights appeared in my rear view, grabbing a hold of my attention. The low hum of the sirens grew louder as they approached, until they were overwhelming me with their wailing as the vehicles zoomed by.
All of a sudden, the silence of my vehicle had been shattered and my focus was on what must be going on?
As the news of the tragic events came through the news reports and twitter accounts that evening, I realized that the silence of so many people’s lives had been shattered. The same way those sirens snapped me into the reality of my surroundings, the senseless violence and loss of life had brought into vivid focus the reality of the brokenness we are all walking through.
I thought of the finality that death brings. It’s cold, harsh grip exerted on the families of those victims. The youthfulness, and all of the promise that it brings, wiped out in an instant.
I felt a deep sadness over the reality that there were people who had to answer a phone call that their child, whom they had dropped off at school with the promise of a bright future, had their life taken by a cowardly act of murder.
You see, death brings a gut-level emotion that tells us that things are not as they should be. It snaps us out of the background noise that our everyday lives seem to settle into and remind us that there is a clock that ticks for every one of us.
Charlotte, NC (my city) is on pace to shatter its highest homicide number for a year. It seems that there is a darkness that has settled over the city I love and it is trying to grab a hold of it tightly, squeezing any hope and joy that may try and take residence in the CLT.
I think of the senseless loss of life, the struggle so many are experiencing in finding upward mobility, and the systemic issues that are presently robbing people of dignity, opportunity, and hope.
It is heavy and it is overwhelming.
And it is background noise for so many of us.
But there are moments that come along, shatter the silence, and bring crystal clear focus to the reality that surrounds us.
And it is these moments where we must take that focus and channel it into how to push back this darkness and reclaim the promise of something better. We must see things not as they should be and ask, “How do we make this right?”
This is the beauty of my faith.
This is the thing I love most about following Jesus.
Even though so many have hijacked Christianity and distorted it to try and fit their own selfish parameters, the true Jesus has the answer to the brokenness of our world.
The truth of the Gospel (it literally means “good news”) is that Jesus made a way for us to see our lives, and the world we live in, restored to how they were created to be.
In Christ, we can push back the darkness and brokenness of our lives and walk in the light of His joy and peace.
The Hebrew word is shalom. It is the picture of everything working in perfect harmony, just as it was designed to do.
The tension we experience is of the knowledge that Jesus has already made this possible, but that we are not yet experiencing that reality fully.
This is the true call of the Christian life: as we follow Jesus, we are actively trying to live in a way that is representative of the way things should be. We are trying to bring shalom to this moment in our communities, our cities, and our world.
The church must be ambassadors of His kingdom and the people who encounter us should see the beauty and majesty of God’s promise for us all.
This promise that declares that you are right to say that things are not as they should be and that there is coming a moment that all will be made right.
With the way we live our lives, may we give everything we have so that we may experience as many of those shalom moments as possible in the hope that people will know just how good our God is.