It was a beautiful summer day, full of joy and peace until sorrow invaded like a conquering army. The tragedy was devastating, and I wept as I adjusted the ropes that held the flag and eased it down the pole. I stood back and saluted, hesitated to leave because of the grief represented by the lowered station, still shaken by the news of yet another devastating horror.
I can’t remember why the flag was at half-staff, but I remember the day I lowered it. The act of recognition lingers in my memory, but I’ve forgotten the grief. If I wrote about it at the time, I can’t find it now. My sorrow has vanished like dew on a summer morning.
Do we all process a national tragedy in such a briefly intense way? Does it fade from consciousness so quickly for everyone except those personally affected?
In 2016, we lowered the flag as we grieved Brussels, Orlando, Dallas, Nice, Baton Rouge. In 2017, it was lowered after Las Vegas and Southerland Springs. We didn’t lower the flag for every national or world tragedy in either year, yet the details of even those few are only vague memories now.
Lingering with Loss
It’s no wonder we fail to learn from the past. We don’t hold it long enough to make it a part of us. We don’t remember it long enough to process it, much less glean a lesson for the future from it.
Instead, we post a “pray for…” on social media, light a candle, say a prayer, and move on to the next big news. Processing grief and passion should lead to heart-expanding memory. Those memories should change us as we go forward.
What happened to lingering with loss? What happened to caring enough to allow growth in us, and letting our concern cause us to work for change in society?
We’re great at bearing one another’s burdens for a moment or two, a day or two, but do we go the distance? Do we shoulder a load and carry it with our friends, our nation, our world until the burden is resolved and the sorrow is healed?
We all do it.
Lest you think I’m making accusations, let me be candid. I’m talking about myself. I’m as guilty as anyone.
Last night, I cleaned out a drawer and found a rubber bracelet made as a reminder about the persecuted church. I’ve had it for years, and it’s been in that drawer almost the entire time. I was deeply concerned about believers suffering for the cause of Christ when I received the bracelet, but I wore it only a day or two. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I took it off because it didn’t look cute with my outfit. I never put it back on.
I held the bracelet, still in a pristine state, and wept. It was a shocking reminder of how quickly my own concerns fade. I wonder…what if I’d remained as passionate about the persecuted church as I was the day I ordered the bracelet?
Would people I love be fleeing for their lives if I’d remained involved? If I’d stood stronger for the cause of Christ? If I’d prayed more?
Wearing a bracelet doesn’t change the course of history, but the passion represented by wearing it might. If we allowed the reminder on our arm to drive us to true intercession, it would make a difference, not just in us but likely in the world around us.
Allow grief to change us for more than a moment
Today, let’s take a few minutes to allow memory to flood our hearts and minds. About what issues have we been passionate? Whose grief moved us? How did we allow our grief and concern to change us? What did we do about it? Have we shouldered burdens all the way to the end, or left friends and family members dangling in their sorrow? Is there a cause about which we need to make a stand?
Let’s resolve to take a stand about something that matters and pray it through.
We can make a difference, but not if we do nothing.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” Hebews 10:24
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