Everybody Always

It’s been two weeks.  Two weeks since I heard there was another shooting.  Two weeks since I heard he, the shooter, was finally in custody.  Two weeks…and once again, so close to home.

Four more….y’all, four more.

Four more victims.

Four more names.

Four more families.

Four more stories.

Four more funerals.

Four more lives.

And, just like all the prior shootings, the horrific details uncovered over the past couple of weeks only left us with more questions and not enough answers.

If I’m honest, I’m sad, angry, and scared.  I’m scared for my son, my niece, my nephew and my sisters who walk the halls of public schools.  I’m scared for my husband who plays in music venues all over the country.  I’m scared for my friends, my family and myself.  I often think twice before entering large crowds, especially with my children, because the vulnerable and unsuspecting seem to be targets.  And, y’all, I’m really angry that this is my reality.  How ’bout you?

I’ve tried to live my life as someone who wasn’t dictated by fear.  Sure, I get scared all the time and I’ve even written about fear several times, but this – these shootings – it’s a special kind of fear.  One that’s new and unknown.  You could say we’re living in uncharted territory.  Fighting a battle we could have never predicted.

And then, there’s this underlying battle beneath the surface that makes me completely crazy.  The battle of gun control, the second amendment and our rights.  It makes me crazy because, while we deliberate, choose our sides, and draw our lines in the sand over social media and dinner tables, four more people have been added to a list with far too many names.

While I’m fairly confident you’ve probably heard enough opinions on the matter of gun control, I’ll thrown my two cents in the ring.

Okay, now I want you all to do me a big favor right now.  Take a deep breath!  Go on…do it!  And, while you read the rest of this blog, please, if only for a minute or two, try to become a judgement free zone.  Try your very best not to lose your mind over my opinions.  I know that’s hard, but please try.

Now, before I state my opinion on this matter, you should understand that on this particular topic, like most of my political views, I’m somewhere in the middle.  I’m a politicians worst nightmare.  I’m not sure if its because I’m the middle child and, therefore, destined to be difficult, but I truly see both sides of this debate.

And, after much thought and far too many discussions with wonderful people on both sides of the argument, here is my conclusion…

I believe we have a gun problem.

I believe we have a mental health problem.

And, I know…we have a heart problem.

Deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths – keep reading.

Now, I don’t want to take all the guns away.  What would I do on Thanksgiving if I couldn’t shoot skeet?  What would I get my brother-in-law for Christmas if I couldn’t buy gun targets?  But, I do think there is a healthy discussion to be had over automatic weapons, mental health, background checks, and high capacity magazines.

Although I’ve probably made a lot of people angry by now, I beg of you to keep reading because, even though I believe we have a gun problem, I believe that gun regulation will only solve part of the problem.  It’s the heart problem that terrifies me.

It’s the heart problem that’s not so easily fixed by laws and mandates.  It’s the heart problem that has lead us to a place of violence and indifference.  It’s the heart problem that causes division and intolerance.  It’s the heart problem that prevents us from reaching across the across party lines and working together to find a solution.  It all goes back to the same problem – one of the heart.  And, ironically,  maybe if we pursued the solution to this problem, we could actually fix the whole problem – this problem that’s breaking all of our hearts.

I just finished reading Bob Goff’s new book Everybody Always.  I laughed, I cried, but most of all, this book made me take a deeper look at those with whom I disagree.  Because Everybody Always actually means everybody always.

And, I’ve started thinking that maybe this is where we should begin.  Maybe we should start with those with whom we disagree.  Now, I don’t like this anymore than you do.  I really don’t.  I prefer to stay in my lane with my people, but you know what that creates?  A lot of self righteous people who always think they’re right.

Ouch!  That hurts, doesn’t it?

And, you know the problem with always thinking you’re right?  You may make a lot of good points, but you don’t make a difference.  I found out a long time ago when I was repairing my marriage that, to work through difficult things, sometimes, I have to give up my right to be right.  Now, that’s a big pill to swallow, but I promise it’s worth it and it’s actually freeing.

Bob Goff says, in Everybody Always, “Whenever I make my opinions more important than the difficult people God made, I turn the wine back into water”.

If you’re a Christian, that should grab your attention and not just on the matter at hand.  Y’all, when we treat our opinions like they are more important than people, we all lose.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Jesus was serious about this, friends.  He addressed this multiple times throughout the scripture, but my favorite is in John 13 when he gave us the new command to “Love one another”.  Now, I know I’m wearing y’all out with John 13, but the love and grace that is demonstrated in this passage cuts me to my core.  (A little warning to my parents who read this blog…there’s a really good chance that portions of this passage will someday be tattooed on my body.  Brace yourselves.)  These were some of his last words to the disciples.  One of the last conversations.

I think, maybe, it’s because he knew that we would encounter difficult people and difficult situations.

Maybe, it’s because he knew that we would find ourselves in uncharted territory.

Maybe, it’s because he knew that we would need to give up our right to be right.

Maybe he said these words last so they would stick.

Maybe it’s because he knew these words would lead us away from ourselves and our agenda and toward the answers.

Life is hard, isn’t it?  I’m constantly reminded of great theologian, Sheryl Crow’s words, “No one said it would be easy.  But no one said it’d be this hard.”  That’s exactly how I feel every time more names are added to the list.  It’s just too hard.  But, as I pray for these families who’s lives have forever been changed, I also pray for you and for me.  I pray that we would begin to take a deeper look at those with whom we disagree.  I pray that we would seek making a difference more than making our points.  And, for the sake of every name on that horrible list, I pray that we would remember: Everybody, Always.

In memory of Taurean C. Sanderlin, Joe R. Perez, Akilah Dasilva and DeEbony Groves and all the other names on the list.

~Mary Ann

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