In Response to Orlando: Moving Towards Compassion

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.” – Henri Nouwen

I woke up yesterday to the news that the first city I have really ever felt able to call “home” had just experienced the U.S.’ worst shooting in its history. This shooting took place within a local gay club around 2AM, and it is hard not to assume homophobic intent. At this moment, fifty people have been reported dead with many others critically injured.

This attack hit me close to home in more ways than one—both in my home, Orlando, and against a large portion of sexual minorities. And, right now, I struggle to put into words the anger and sadness I have felt pulsating through my veins over the last day.

I have wanted to lambaste people sharing their political opinions and have hypocritically wanted to post my own. I have wanted to shame those who have attempted to use this tragedy for their own purposes and agendas and in some ways have myself. And yet I find that in the festering of these desires for vengeance, I have avoided the opportunity to enter into lament and suffering. I have escaped the opportunity to bring my griefs to God or enter into the griefs of others.

Right now it is easy for many of us to look for someone or something to blame. For some of us, we will look at guns, at religion, or at a lack of tolerance to cast our blame. For others of us, we will look at mental illness, at a foreign military threat, or a lack of self-protection. And I agree, we must begin to sort through the poisons of the world that are bringing such damage. Looking for a cause is not bad. However, I plead, right now, in these moments, we must not be like the friends of Job who sought an explanation for his sufferings while he was suffering. Right now, we must enter into the “house of lament” and the places of human suffering and vulnerability, ceasing for a moment to point to a problem or solution.

We are so quick to want to escape suffering that we often escape the very ones actually suffering.

Again, the desire to find the cure to end suffering is not a bad desire. But we must not miss those who are suffering. Like Jesus casting his eyes on the widow at Nain who had just lost her beloved son, he had compassion and moved towards her. We must seek to emulate Jesus in times like these. We must move in compassion towards those who are vulnerable and grieving and not be afraid to sit in the aches of loss and oppression. I am not claiming this to be an easy thing either. There is perhaps nothing more difficult than moving towards someone who is grieving because real compassion makes that grief our own. 

We must not let our own political opinions and social presuppositions dictate who gets shown compassion. Like the Good Samaritan, we must look past these things so we can begin standing next to and up for those who are oppressed, bloodied, beaten, and grieving. And right now, that is the LGBTQ+ community and the families of those who were lost.

So friends, I ask you, instead of looking right now for someone or something to blame, go hug and cry with your gay neighbor or friend, go to an LGBTQ+ Vigil, go give blood, use your finances to give, read through a few Psalms of lament and cry out to God over the injustice and evil in this world, do something to enter into the sorrow rather than avoid it.

And for those of you who are hurting right now whether directly or indirectly from the tragedy, my heart hurts for you most. I hope and pray that you have friends who are moving towards you and are hurting with you. I pray the Church offers you its tears, time, and possessions. And you, of all people right now, have the power to emulate the tenderness, mercy, holy anger, and sorrow of Jesus to the surrounding world and to those perpetrators of evil and injustice.  And you of all people are not alone.

King Jesus, you are the one who has shown us the utmost compassion in coming to us in our suffering, you are the one who was not shown compassion in your suffering, and you are the one who is bringing an ultimate end to the evil in this world.

To you I plead…come quickly. 

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