Last night, Angela and I were in the house watching the horrific aftermath of another school shooting. This time it was in Uvalde, Texas, a town we’ve been through many times–a beautiful little town. I was just heartbroken and horrified by all that we were seeing on television, and then we heard an incredibly loud noise from outside. We went to investigate and we discovered that our nance tree had fallen. A nance is a fruit many of you don’t know. Costa Ricans love this fruit. It has a very distinct smell, and they use it and make many things out of it. This was the only one we had on the property and it is now gone. It is fallen.
As I woke up this morning, I was thinking about this tree and, of course, the shooting was still on my mind. The thought occurred to me that this tree fell–this tree had to fall because everything about it was aligned to fall. Now I don’t know what all those things were, but I do know this is the result. Whether it was because the roots were too shallow, or the tree was too old, or it was weighed down with too many nances. It was perfectly aligned to fall.
I’m borrowing that phraseology from years ago when I was at Grace Community Church. We were having a senior staff planning meeting, and one of our staff–I believe it was Brenda Georgi–said that “our policies and procedures are perfectly aligned to give us the results we are getting.” That’s obvious and axiomatic. Everything we are doing is perfect for the results that we are getting. It makes absolute sense. We don’t like to think about how we are responsible for what we are getting as a result, but it is necessary for us to face that reality. Just as this tree fell, everything was leading up to that. It was perfectly aligned for that.
What is it in our culture that is giving us these kinds of results where 18-year-olds go out and shoot up schools? I don’t know. I don’t believe there is one simplistic answer. But I know when I was a child this was not an occurrence. This was not something that was on our radar. And less so when my parents were children. So where has our alignment changed? What have we adopted in our culture or let go of in our culture that is giving us the results that we are seeing now?
First of all, I believe individuals are responsible. I believe this young man made a choice and he did what he did. He is the responsible party. But he is a product of our culture in many, many ways. So on the one hand we take God out of our culture, out of our community, and certainly out of our schools, and yet we expect godly behavior and we aren’t getting it. And we glorify violence in our games and our movies and we expect peaceful behavior and we aren’t getting it. And we reject the idea of moral accountability and responsibility but yet we expect moral behavior and we aren’t getting it. I don’t want to be simplistic and I don’t want to make assumptions about this, but I think our culture is going to continue to be a reflection of our values.
Then I was also disturbed when I got on social media this morning to check my messages. Some in my feed were upset and said, “Thoughts and prayers are nothing,” and they “don’t stop bullets.” You know, certainly when you take prayer away and people are not taught to pray, yes, that is nothing. So somebody that comes along who never prays and we are going to ask them to pray? Why? It doesn’t mean a thing. Even Jesus’ disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (John 11:1). And what did Jesus teach? He didn’t teach a knee-jerk reaction to a horrible event that you want to undo or to wish had never happened. He said…
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’Matthew 6:9-13
We’ve taken the word away. We’ve taken all those things away, yet we want prayer to work. Prayer only works when we know the one we are praying to–when we believe in the God of heaven.
It is time to change the alignment in our culture. We’ve got to get our culture to turn back to God. It’s time for another Great Awakening. It is time for people to realize that all this libertine secularism that you longed for, well, this is the result. May God help us all. May God help all those families that are dealing with that this morning.