When I first heard about the shooting in Orlando, I was all the things I always am when there is a shooting in a theater, school or at a holiday party. I was afraid, angry, saddened and I was a mom.
Before I had kids I remember my boss crying at work one day because a child had been abducted in our community. I understood why she was upset, but my then college-aged brain was a little confused as to why she was sobbing. When I became a mom however, I got it. Every child becomes your child. Every abduction, violence and tragedy hurts in a deeper, more personal and scarier way when you’re a mom.
When I found out the Orlando shooting was at a gay night club, I’m embarrassed to admit that my mom-heart was a tiny bit less burdened. Of course I was angry, sad and upset, but if I’m honest, subconsciously, I wasn’t shaken like I was for Sandy Hook or Columbine. Maybe it was because most of my closest family and friends don’t frequent clubs (or stay up past ten). Maybe it was because there were no young children there. But maybe it was something else I didn’t realize or want to admit.
Once the names and photographs of those killed were released, a friend on Facebook posted she had scrolled through and prayed for each of the forty-nine victims. I was admittedly (and again, embarrassingly) a little surprised my Jesus friend had done that, but it prompted me to follow suit.
As I began to pray for those killed in Orlando something happened. I didn’t see the faces of people I didn’t understand. I didn’t look into the eyes of someone strange or different. As I looked at those forty-nine people who had been killed brutally and tragically by a madman, I saw them as a mom. These were someone’s sons and daughters. These were the children of a mom just like me. For the first time, I looked at the victims like I hadn’t or maybe didn’t want to and as I prayed for each one, it left me broken.
Whether it’s the tattooed, pierced barista serving me coffee, someone in our family who has hurt me or that person at church who doesn’t like me, Jesus keeps asking me the same question:
Why is it okay for you to ignore, judge and fail to love the people I died for?
As I continue to try and discern what it looks to really love others, praying for them seems to make the most impact. Perhaps it’s because prayer forces me to ask how would I want someone to pray for me. Or that when I pray, I realize those I dislike or maybe don’t understand aren’t that different than me in the first place. Prayer seems to make the most impact however, because it is only when I pray for others that I seem to be able to empathize more than judge and give compassion more than criticism.