Speaking of Heartbreak…and Our Only Hope

 Last week I wrote about being heartbroken over good men losing jobs over situations seemingly out of their control. I remain heavy hearted about that to be sure, but yesterday brought on a different sort of heartbreak. I didn’t cry or lose sleep over godly men having to make tough sacrifices last week, but I did shed tears over the loss of 50 lives in Florida yesterday, and I woke up this morning having tossed and dreamt about it and related issues all night long. How does life go on here when lives have been shattered not far away? And more lives in one shooting than ever before in history?

Sunday morning was a typical one. Robert and I are up early, and while he gets ready, I make a big breakfast before he and Kayla leave for early service preparation. (He leads and prays with the troops and Kayla fills communion cups) As they were about to walk out the door, I checked Facebook on my phone and saw a couple of the first reports of the shooting in Orlando. I mentioned to Robert that 20 had been killed. We turned on the news for a few minutes while waiting for our almost-16-year-old to make her way downstairs. It was breaking news, and it was bad. 2am. A nightclub. 20 dead and 40 injured. Negotiations. SWAT team.

It felt like I was watching an episode of Blue Bloods (our current indulgence), but these were not actors. They were the real life Jamie, Danny, and Frank Reagans. Local law enforcement having to deal with horror and tragedy, only this one didn’t get nicely tied up in the end.

Cooper and I went to church in time for the first service and enjoyed the guest preacher, as our preacher still doesn’t have his voice back 100%. We came home with Kayla, had lunch together, and I waited for Robert to arrive home after service number two. As soon as he got home, we left for the first of two back-to-back graduation parties. It was at the first party that I learned the new death toll.

“Did you guys hear about the shooting?” my friend Betsy asked.
“Yes, so terrible. 20 dead and so many more injured,” I replied.
Our mutual friend Stacey corrected me, “It’s actually 50 now. 50 people dead and almost that many injured.”

Heartbreak. In the midst of the joyful milestone celebration of a graduate you’ve known his whole life. How do you reconcile these things?

On the way to party number two, I told Robert the news, “Honey, the shooter killed 50 people, not just 20.”

Is 50 a shocking number? I wasn’t even putting it together that it’s almost double the amount of lives lost at the Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut. As if the numbers matter. Even one life is too many, but 26? 32 in Virginia? And now 50?

It wasn’t until we got home after 5pm that the news stated it loud and clear:

Deadliest mass shooting in U.S. History.

I had to drive Kayla to meet Cooper for youth group at a sister church soon after we got home. On the way, I explained it to her: “Deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, honey.”

In the ten minutes we had together, we talked about our relief that it was not someone claiming to be a Christian (this time), and about how we are called to love our neighbor regardless of religious and worldview and lifestyle differences. That these were human beings. They were creations of a good and loving Father in our view, and therefore their lives are precious.

But we also talked about shootings in general and the disturbing status quo nature of other widespread violence and hatred and persecution and intolerance – of which Christians are increasingly a target in the U.S. but even more so globally.

A text I received from my brother yesterday in the midst of all of this illustrates a trend:

“The elders of our church asked our pastor to resign this week due to his change in belief regarding marriage being between one man and one woman.”

I applaud those elders for their devotion to God’s Word, but there are few others joining in that applause. The cultural pressure for Christians to abandon God’s Word and reject His will for marriage and sexuality is great, and I worry about the increasing pressure on my kids as they become adults. Holding to faith can be difficult enough.  Holding to what many consider to be a “hateful” stance feels almost impossible for anyone with a heart or ounce of compassion.

So, Kayla and I talked about love. Loving people without conditions. Having appropriate expectations of those who don’t believe God the same way we do. Being a good neighbor to all who are created in His image no matter what.

And we also talked about our only Hope.

If you can get shot in your elementary school, or your local movie theater, or your dorm, or shopping mall, you can also get killed in your worship service, at your church picnic, or on your mission trip. It could happen at random, or it could be due to your faith and belief. Really, it can happen anywhere to anyone. This is the world we live in, and it could get much, much worse. And I don’t believe in a rapture out of tribulation. And Jesus warns us of times like these. And no, I’m not forecasting the end of all things here, but still…is there any way to be prepared? What do I teach my kids?

Just this, I think:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master,’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” John 15: 18-25

Trial and persecution will come.
Suffering is a given.
You might be hated and accused of hatred.
Know that Christ can be trusted.
Walk with Him. Learn Him. Cling to Him.
Cast your fears on Him.
Surrender to His good and perfect will.
Know He is sovereign over all.

Death is not final for those who trust in Christ.
We value our life, but we are also ready to lay it down.

He is our healing in heartbreak.
He is our hope in death.

These are the things I want my kids to know, to hold fast to. (And realities I forget daily, and need to be reminded of, too.)

It was on the way home from dropping her off and having this conversations that the emotions of the day caught up with me and the tears came suddenly.

May tragedies like this serve to shore up the faith of my children. May they be strengthened to stand for Christ with both grace and truth. (Which is so much more difficult than adopting the cultural changes and trends and world views.)

May the many in Florida and beyond find hope in Christ in spite of the current horror and devastation. May He provide abundant grace for those who are grieving and left behind.  And may Christians be the first to stand up and call the tragedy exactly what it is, offering help and hope. These were our neighbors. These are our neighbors.

Will Chip Gaines be Next? (or Leadership is Lonely)

Robert and I had lunch together at our picnic table one day this week. Poor guy has been sick for over a week and has had laryngitis for six days now, so it was good to sit in the sunshine for a while, eating and chatting, which was a bit one sided, since he literally can’t speak. Well, he can whisper, but even that is labored.

I was feeling so heavy hearted, because right before we walked outside I had read that Baylor’s president resigned. This was only a couple of days after I read that Baylor’s athletic director resigned. Two good men. Two men of integrity. One of whom I have known personally for about 15 years.  The other I have met in person and had a very special and meaningful conversation with.

“Chip Gaines will be next,” I said, and the man without a voice choked out a laugh.

“No, I’m serious. I mean, as long as we’re creating an atmosphere where upstanding men who love their university, and their town, and their jobs, and their God and have accomplished SO MUCH GOOD feel that they must resign, then surely Chip will be the next to go down. It only makes sense. And then at my funeral, you can tell everyone that I died of a broken heart, because that will be the final straw.”

It may sound dramatic, but my true sentiments have not been far off. My heart is truly broken.

I think Robert whispered something about Jesus being worthy of life and worship beyond the Baylor scandal, and that He is sovereign over this whole thing anyway, but it honestly wasn’t helping in that particular moment.

Apologies if you have no idea who I’m talking about, but I can’t get this thing off my mind, and writing somehow helps remedy that. I would tell you to Google it, but I can tell you for certain that THAT will not give you an accurate account. I’ve even put off writing for a few days, because I know that “A tranquil heart gives life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones” (Proverbs 14:30) Believe me when I tell you that this passionate ISTJ has to use that verse often to pray and talk herself down.

Back in March this happened:

What I didn’t mention in that Facebook post was that after the Vice President asked Kory what the Baylor administration could do better going forward and how students could be best reached with important information about protecting themselves and reporting incidents of sexual assault safely, Kory didn’t answer right away.
Because he too has experienced the sting of criticism in the face of faithful leadership, Kory felt compelled to thank the man for his leadership on Baylor’s campus. He told him how much he loves his school and how much the atmosphere on campus has caused him to grow as a student, a leader, a man, and above all, a Christian. He credited much of that to this man and to Baylor’s president, Judge Ken Starr.
Can you guess what happened next? 
Those of you who have been in a similar situation might know exactly what happened next. Those of you who have been blamed for things you weren’t directly involved in with no recourse. Those who’ve had your sincere efforts to lead people to growth and betterment rejected or mocked. Those who have had to make difficult decisions that outsiders would simply never understand, but which you could not defend or explain in order to protect others. Those of you who don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Those of you who serve faithfully, unnoticed and unappreciated because you love your Lord.
The man wept.
That’s right. Tears streaming down his face. 
Probably tears of a release from stress for at least a few moments. Tears of gratitude. Tears of relief that at least one student acknowledged the difficulty of the job and appreciated it.
Do I believe some terrible things happened to young women at Baylor? Yes. Do I think justice should be done? Yes. Do I think similar and worse things have happened on other campuses? Oh, I KNOW they have. I’ve talked to the women myself. Do I think that many women put themselves at risk in romantic relationships? Absolutely. MUCH of the time in fact. (Again, I’ve spoken with them and heard the stories. They initiated things. They went to guys’ apartments/dorm rooms/homes and took their clothes off, at times even when the guys could take them or leave them.) Am I blaming the women? Yes. Am I blaming the men? Yes. Do I think that even until the last possible moment the woman should be able to have her “no” honored? Yes. Have I watched the “Tea Consent” video? Yes. (I love it!) Do I think it’s stupid for women to go alone, at night, to a guy’s apartment, have a few drinks, and take her clothes off? Yes. Do I think the guy is still responsible if she does? Yes. Do I think some women lie? Yes. Do I think some men are violent, abusive, and narcissistic? Yes. Do I think leaders, coaches, bosses are sometimes at a loss and make mistakes that further harm the victims? Yes.
Would I enjoy trying to sort through all of these things as an administrator on the campus of a Christian University who happens to be winning a lot of football games and has a president who vigorously investigated a former president for sexual misconduct? No.
(Do I know that some of you reading this despise him and think him “one of the monumental sleazeballs of our era”? Yes. But I happen to like him. I wrote about meeting him here.)
Do I think Baylor is the perfect target for a scandal and media smear campaign? Yes.

Once, way back in our Texas youth ministry days, we took teenagers on a retreat which included a ropes course component. It was a faith-building and team building exercise, but one kid refused to participate.  Way too cool to climb up a telephone pole or walk a tightrope or jump for a trapeze or zip line to the next element, he sat on the ground and watched his peers try and do scary and seemingly impossible things.
But he didn’t only sit and observe. He mocked. He laughed. He ridiculed the other teens when they expressed fear, slipped and fell, dangled from their harnesses, etc.
The youth pastor (a.k.a. Robert) said something like this: “Must be a nice view from the cheap seats.”
But I get it. The captain goes down with the ship. It happened on their watch. Having authority implies accountability.
Kory interviewed Ian McCaw for a Leadership Night at Baylor. If anyone has modeled humble
 leadership and encouraged Kory’s love for leadership aside from Robert, it’s Ian.
I just think we ought to have a little more respect for those risking responsibility and stop scoffing at things we really don’t know a whole lot about. Can we humble ourselves for a few moments and consider what it is like to be in those shoes?
I just hope none of the thousands of Magnolia employees ever do anything wrong in their own homes or interpersonal relationships and that Chip misses the email about it, because he’s busy trying to lead a business and family. But you know what? That might happen. And the headlines might fly. And the columnists might rake him and his sweet family over the coals. And no one will really get down to brass tack truth, because we’d rather believe the lies. And the good and funny and beneficial things he’s done might be forgotten in the blink of an eye. And then, if I survive this week, I really might die of a broken heart.