This was not the blog post planned for today. However, when the timing of the Nashville shooting by a transwoman coincided with the airing of our Nuance Podcast’s episodes that were focusing on gender identity issues it was a confluence of factors that called out for some kind of response. Especially, since it seems like every other person I talk to has one or maybe two degrees of separation from someone involved in the Nashville tragedy.
All shootings are horrific whether they are the local ones we have been experiencing in the past several weeks or most recently the mass shooting in Louisville, Kentucky on Monday. No doubt the rise in these incidents contributes to our collective numbness towards these kinds of catastrophes. The Nashville shooting at least momentarily has jarred most of us out of our dulled state because young children were involved. What feels like pre-mature deaths of children tends to blow up our emotions and to plumb a deeper depth of grief in our souls. The phrasing of “what feels like a pre-mature death” is because as evangelicals we believe in the sovereignty and providence of God—even when that providence is a dark one. The first few verses of Ecclesiastes chapter three remind us that, “to everything there is a season, a time for purpose under heaven; A time to be born, And a time to die.” However, as I look at those sweet faces of the nine-year-olds who were shot down with no regard, this particular passage is quite difficult to stomach.
Disturbed emotions, numerous unanswered questions, and a seemingly endless stream of troubling news worldwide can mess with our own mental well-being and if we are not careful it can mess with our own spiritual maturity. I wish this were going to be an article that would answer all the questions, but it is not. We will go our entire lives without all the answers on so many fronts. In crisis we are to return to home base and for the Christian that is truth—truth found in Scripture, truth found in the character of God, and truth found in ourselves. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but the following points of truth are worth us revisiting as we sort out our emotions and seek to understand our world.
- TRUTH—FOUND IN THE CHARACTER OF GOD:
- God is good
- God is omniscience, He is all knowing
- “If God sent His own Son to walk through the valley of condemnation, rejection, and hell, you can trust Him as you walk through your own valleys on your way to heaven.” (Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly, The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers)
- “His (Christ) heart was gentle and lowly toward us when we were lost. Will His heart be anything different toward us now that we are found?” (Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly)
- “Who is Jesus, in those moments spiritual blankness?...the apostle John says: he stands up and defies all accusers, ‘Satan had the first word, but Christ the last,’ wrote Bunyan.” (Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly)
- “One way to think of Christ’s intercession…is Jesus is praying for you right now. ‘It is a consoling thought thought,’ wrote theologian Louis Berkhof, ‘that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life.’…if you heard Jesus praying aloud for you in the next room…few things would calm us more deeply.” (Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly)
- TRUTH—FOUND IN SCRIPTURE:
- Psalm 121: 1-2—“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. (NKJ)
- Psalm 107:1 & 6—“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever…Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, And He delivered them out of their distresss.”
- Psalm 27:1—"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (ESV)
- Psalm 23:1,3-4—“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (NKJ)
- TRUTH—FOUND IN OURSELVES:
- We are NOT omniscience, we do NOT know all, we can NOT comprehend all
- Psalm 53:1—"The fool has said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good.” (NKJ)
- Jeremiah 17:9—“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (NKJ)
- John 15:5—“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (NKJ)
- TRUTH—FOUND IN OURSELVES:
- The Lord uses His people to encourage one another. May you find great encouragement in Andrew Peterson’s song, Is He Worthy?
- Weeping in Nashville is a great article by Scott Sauls, Senior Pastor of Christ Community Church in Nashville. Scott was also a guest on this season of Nuance.
I don’t want to say much about the shooter who was transitioning, but there are a few things worth noting. In doing research for this season of Nuance, unexpectedly I grew in my sympathy for those who are walking the path of transitioning. There is no doubt this was the Holy Spirit’s doing, as scripture commands that I love my neighbor, but yet, this is a commandment I often freely and knowingly violate. In the past, this would be especially true of those struggling with their gender. It was in ignorance that my arrogance and self-righteous nature were fed because I did not give any credence to the identity struggles some in the trans community have. Part of my arrogance comes from the fact that I do not share the struggles of the shooter. Yet, it would be good for me to remember, yet for the grace of God go I (I Corin. 15:10)
Please do NOT read into this that I am somehow letting the shooter off the hook. Rather I am wanting to encourage the right perspective, which will give us a greater opportunity to see, seek, and understand that which is true. After living with this shooting for several days, one of the truths that jumped out at me was the question, Where were her people? Where were her parents? Where were her friends? Where were her co-workers? Where were her comrades in the trans community? At the end of the day, yes she is responsible for her actions, but the other reality is that her communities failed her. You do not have to be professionally trained to see that this young woman was spiraling down and residing in an unhealthy place. And because no one stood up, spoke up six people lost their lives and numerous lives will be forever changed from those who rushed in to help, the children in that school, their parents, teachers, and the greater Nashville community.
This is a challenge for us all. How are the people in your communities doing? If you see trouble and don’t know what to do, please seek help. Communities have been fractured or splintered (which is really a topic for another blog post), but we must do better, all of us—Christians and those who do not believe. There were certainly other factors that contributed to the shooter making the choices she made.
The pursuit of truth especially in times of difficulty does not wipe away the hurt and heaviness, but it can lighten the load and remind us of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. This is a hope we must never lose sight of no matter the crisis. Joni Erickson Tada, Christian quadriplegic author and speaker, says “Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”