Light the darkness

Like so many others, I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the shootings at Virginia Tech.

After reading about the shooter’s background, I’ve come to the conclusion that he was a sad, desperately lonely individual who was operating under the erroneous belief that he was unloved and perhaps unlovable.

Humans have an innate need to be loved. And why wouldn’t we? After all, the Bible teaches us that God is Love, and that man is made in His image and likeness. As images of divine Love itself, we can’t help wanting to give and receive love. It’s part of our identity, and it’s as essential to our survival as air or water or food.

Can you imagine going through life feeling absolutely convinced that no one loved you? What a horrible existence! No one is truly unloved. But it’s easy to believe otherwise if every person you meet avoids you or rejects you. It’s hard to feel the presence of divine Love when it never seems to be reflected in your direction.

All of us need to remember who we are. We need to express our identity as reflections of divine Love, and we need to go out of our way to be sensitive to each other’s pain and to reach out with love and kindness to those who are struggling.

If a person seems to be having a hard day, we need to say something to him, even if it’s something as simple as, “Hey, man — you look kind of down. Can I do anything for you?”

If a person seems strange, we need to pray to correct our thoughts about him. We need to stop thinking of him as the weird guy from American lit class or the creepy guy down the street and start thinking of him as a child of God who has the ability to love and be loved just like the rest of us. (I think this may be the most valuable thing any of us can do to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.)

And finally, if Love tells us to do something, we need to do it — whether it’s picking up the check for the lonely-looking guy having lunch by himself at the diner, feeding a stranger’s parking meter, or simply offering a smile and a kind word to someone who looks unhappy. You know the line in the Bible about entertaining “angels unawares”? Sometimes you don’t just entertain angels. Sometimes you are called to be the angel. Pay attention, and don’t miss those opportunities. They may be more important than you realize.

Remember my riff about sparks in the dark? Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light, and hatred cannot exist in the presence of Love. It may seem small, but every little spark helps light the darkness and affirm the presence of Love.

Go make some sparks today.