I am not exactly sure when I started offering up my simple go-to prayer internally to God, but I know I have been doing it for years now. Indeed, every time I am concerned for someone I care about’s well-being, see something that I think has inherent risk, or fly in a plane, I offer up my unspoken, but clearly articulated prayer: “God watch over us, each and every one of us.” And because I am who I am – an individual who sees risk everywhere – I offer it up often. It makes me feel as if God has my back. Once uttered, it is typically back to business as usual with nary another thought. I am reassured by the thought of God’s protection.
My prayer was the first thing that came to mind when I learned of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. But unlike other times when I articulated my prayer and moved on peacefully with what I was doing, in this instance it lingered. And even now, almost a week after the horrific event my prayer hangs over my heart and permeates my thoughts – I have not been able to move off of it.
I have been thinking about this a great deal. I want to understand why my reassurance no longer seems certain, why I cannot stop looping the prayer in my head, why I cannot let go of this tragedy. It hit me yesterday as I sat in an auditorium with my grandson and a few hundred other people (mostly young children) watching a free movie screened by the Park Board. I looked around at all the people there having fun, being in the moment, and relaxing. The ratio of children to adults was probably five to one. By my estimation, there could have been no more magical a place in the moment. Alas, the risk-focused person I am, I look beyond the merriment to the “what ifs.” I automatically went to my simple go-to prayer to protect all the people there, to include me and my grandson.
It was then that it hit me like a ton of bricks. There with my grandson on my lap in an auditorium filled with children – I understood that my go-to prayer, the one I uttered almost daily, operated only as a placebo to offer comfort in the moment, but it wouldn’t, it couldn’t, protect me or anyone else from this reality we are living in. In today’s world, no one is safe from the kind of terror that visited Pulse or Sandy Hook Elementary or Umpqua Community College or San Bernardino.
Horrible things happen every day. Increasingly, they happen at the hands of other human beings who pay no attention to the lives they take and the families they crumble. Let’s face it, God is too busy to watch over all of us in these days of bombings, mass shootings, and other violent acts designed to create mass casualties, fear, and mayhem. I have concluded that we are going to have watch over ourselves and each other instead of looking to God to cover us. We have to be the ones who take ownership over our continued existence.
That means we have to talk about the world we want to live in and what it takes to make it a safe, tolerant world for all of us. It also means that we may have to give up some things we view as liberties for the sake of safety and security. Merely bemoaning the state of the world won’t change the reality we are living in; and, unfortunately, neither will simple prayers.
Another day in the new forty – obla di obla da