(Originally posted on our former site on 7/17/2014)
A terrible tragedy happened just down the street from where my husband and I used to live in Stockton, CA. A bank robbery and a high speed chase that ended in three people losing their lives. My newsfeed blew up yesterday with friends who had taken video of what was happening, posted updates on locations to stay away from, and shared news reports to give the latest details on who was involved.
I read through them all. Searching… praying… praying that I didn’t recognize any of the names.
This was my city, my community, my neighborhood. My heart hurt for the families who had to be notified of a loved one’s death and when it was all over I was relieved. Relieved. Somewhere in that city there was a husband, son, family grieving because that Wednesday had easily become the worst day of their lives and I… I was relieved.
I was notified last night by a friend in youth ministry that one of their students was the son of the hostage who had lost her life.
Immediately I began to pray for this boy who would never again get to share a hug with his mother, never get to tell her he loved her face to face, never get to fight with her over curfew, and never get to see her face as he said “I do”.
I prayed and thought about it a lot last night. It kept me up too late and as I drug myself out of bed this morning it was the first thing on my mind. Yesterday it was just a story that I was reading but last night it was a face, a name, a voice of someone who was living out that nightmare. The feeling of relief had left me and was replaced by a deep sadness as I looked at my own boys and hugged them a little tighter.
I started my day not knowing any of the names on that report; I started that day hearing about a story. But then God reminded me of something- that story was someone’s reality and while I don’t know their names- He does. He knows every one of them. He knows the very details of their lives. He has thought of them more times than there are very pieces of sand on the shore. They were His creation. HE knew their names.
Now I am not saying that I should be guilty for my initial feeling of relief but I was made quite aware in that moment of how different “stories” and “realities” are.
Stories are distant; realities are ever present. Stories are impersonal; realities are so painfully personal. Stories impact us for a moment; realities impact us for the rest of our lives.
We read stories, but we live realities.
And this is the difference not just with how we see tragedies, but with who we allow God to be in our lives. If we choose for Him to be a story that can be read and easily dismissed then we are left unmarked, unchanged, and seemingly alone to navigate through life.
But if we decide that God is not a story, He is a reality and He knows our names, we may just see the world through a different lens.
In the midst of our struggles, in the midst of our pains, He calls us by name. He loves us. He is for us and not against us. He fights on our behalf. He strengthens our weakened bodies with His power. And He carries us through the seemingly never ending days.
And not just us, but the many fighting horrific battles of their own around us. He knows their names too.
And when we allow God to be ever present with us, then we exchange our view for His and those names on a page come alive. We care for them, because He cares for them. Our heart breaks for them because His heart breaks for them. We can't stick our head in the sand and claim ignorance anymore... when we treat God like a reality we are compelled to respond how He would.
Our God is CLOSE to the broken hearted, He BINDS up their wounds, and He LOVES them unconditionally.
So if you are in need, let Him be all of these things and more. And if you are reading story after story of heartache, learn to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Because He is more than a story for all of us.
Psalm 139:1-18 O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!