“Something is up here. Everyone is retreating,” read my Twitter feed.
We had just left the biggest night of high school football in our area- Auburn High vs. Opelika High. This rivalry runs so deep that you will be denied entry to the home or visitor side if you are wearing the opposing team’s colors. They keep it separated ‘round here.
We had taken five 12-year-olds to the game while our 14-year-old participated as part of Auburn High’s marching band. The game was sold out with a crowd of upwards to 8,000. In an effort to get out of there early and beat the traffic home, we bribed the 12-year-olds with a trip to the ice cream store.
The game was exciting so I kept everyone updated in the car with the OA News Twitter feed. That’s when things took a turn.
“Don’t know what happened. Announcement over speaker says there is no danger. People can return to seats,” Will Sammon of the OA News tweeted.
“All I saw is a bunch of cheerleaders running from one end zone on sideline to the other. Then players darted off field.”
I read these updates to my husband, unsure of what to think. Two journalists had just been shot on live television that week. Indescribable acts of violence seem to occur on a weekly basis these days. Was our small town’s worst nightmare being played out inside the football stadium we had just left? And what about my 14-year-old who was still there? I was almost paralyzed with fear as I hit “refresh” over and over on my Twitter feed.
The kids in the back started asking what was happening. They began to talk amongst themselves. Was it a bomb? Did someone have a gun? Was someone shooting up the stadium? They discussed these things almost casually. As if it was normal. Which sadly, it seems to be for this generation.
Fortunately, the incident at the stadium was nothing but a fight that had broken out. Rumor has it that someone yelled, “Gun!” which triggered the panic. Everything settled down, and Opelika went on to beat Auburn High 31-30. Boo.
Ever since the news broke of the journalists who were murdered, I had been thinking a lot about what could possibly cause someone to be in such depths of despair that they decide to kill someone. I think the answer is hope, or rather the lack of hope.
hopeless: \‘hō-plǝs\ adj. 1. having no expectation of good or success; 2. not susceptible to remedy or cure; 3. incapable of redemption or improvement.
As we (me included!) are quick to label the people who commit these unspeakable acts as “crazies” and “psychos,” I cannot help but think of the mental state of such person hours, days, or weeks before he finally broke. The loneliness. The worthlessness. The hopelessness. Though I am by no means excusing the outright evil cast out by these perpetrators, I do have compassion for the hurting soul who decides violence is an option.
I have always thought that one of the purposes of “religion” in our lives is to bring us comfort. We adopt a set of beliefs to explain the unexplainable in a way that comforts us. For example- heaven. I’d like to think one day I will be reunited with my loved ones in a special place we call “heaven.” That family reunion sounds way better than a dark, damp, lonely hole in the ground. The idea of heaven brings me comfort.
Hope has also brought me comfort. I have had a pretty good life so far, but that’s not to say it’s been perfect. I have had my share of disappointments and tragedies. But the one thing I have always had is hope and a belief that things happen for a reason. In my older age, I now recognize that some of my darkest times have brought forth some of my greatest rewards. I may not have completely understood it during the difficult times, but it was hope that things were going to get better that kept me going.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
You’ve got to hand it to the Bible. There’s some good stuff in there.
I pray for those who feel overwhelmed by hopelessness. I pray they understand their situation is temporary. I pray their desperation, despair, and discouragement will be replaced with love, hope and faith.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”- Jeremiah 29:11.