Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. Kyrie Eleison
In the wake of last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, I found myself with out words. Still my heart struggles, still words seem to fail me. And honestly, as I left our Ash Wednesday service last week, just hours after the shooting, I felt like I had failed myself.
Because as much as I had wanted to be able to change my message for that worship service, to pray for those students and families, to do anything, somehow it wasn’t until after worship that I realized what I had missed.
It was a reminder to me that even though I hate the idea of failure, it’s going to happen. And it’s going to happen with things that are important to me.
When Plans Fail
In an ideal world, I would have been able to spend some time on Wednesday afternoon reworking my message. I would have read more of the stories coming out of Parkland. I would have found a way to lift up the prayers in my heart for those students and those families in the homily I had prepared for that evening.
Honestly, I would have done a lot of things differently. But my plans failed me. I didn’t have enough of a built in buffer of time between our Ashes to Go and our full worship service. There wasn’t time to rework anything. A lot of planning and work went into those services and into my short message, and I didn’t even have a fraction of that, and although I have colleagues who can “wing it” at the pulpit, those aren’t gifts I have.
When Minds Fail
But even in spite of my lack of skills in this department, I hoped I could at least touch upon the tragedy, if not in my sermon then maybe through prayers.
Periodically throughout our afternoon greeting our neighbors and offering prayers and ashes, we received updates on the shooting. Each update pained me, and I kept making a note in my mind to at least add in a prayer for those students, teachers, and families.
And then we went back inside from the cold. I started putting away all of our supplies. And I got my daughter from my husband so that he could practice with the choir. Then I made sure that I had all of my worship notes in the sanctuary. I began to greet members and friends as they arrived. I suddenly realized that with my husband helping in the praise team, I was unsure where to be with my 10-month-old daughter wanting to climb all over the pews.
And in all those excuses, my mind failed me – that mental to do list I had made to at least add a prayer if not more did not come back to me until halfway through our soup supper after worship ended.
When Words Fail
And honestly, I wonder if these failures weren’t my heart and mind and spirit’s way of giving me needed time. Because in those hours just after the shooting, and even in the days afterwards, I was still struggling to find the words. When I finally got home after our Ash Wednesday, when I finally looked through the news articles. I found that I could not stop my tears as I prayed over the photo of two mothers crying, one with the sign of the cross in ashes on her forehead. Any words I could think of in my own moments of prayer failed me.
All I could do was cry to God, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy”. In the midst of this heartbreak, of this violence, of this sadness, in the midst of my failing words, all I can do is ask for God to have mercy in this world.
And even though the words still seem to fail me, somehow the Holy Spirit brought me words to speak in my message at church on Sunday.
And God brings me words as I pray. I pray that God brings comfort and healing, action and solutions, that God’s mercy works through us and our leaders to prevent these terrible heartbreaks, and I ask that God helps me to find words of pain, words of comfort, and words of healing, when my words fail me.