When The News Is Low, Go Higher
When I heard the news of the recent mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that took the lives of 11 innocent people, I was reminded of something that happened while I was guest preaching a few months ago. A gentleman in the congregation raised a prayer request for a mass shooting that had happened that morning in Florida. He offered prayers for the victims and everyone involved in that tragedy, but what got to me, was what he said after that. I think he spoke for many people in this country who are frustrated that these tragedies have become commonplace. He mentioned that it was starting to feel like no place is safe anymore, and it made him not want to attend gatherings in public places.
And then he added that it was a struggle, because he knew that God is our refuge, and He is our safety and security, and we are to put our hope in Him, but… he was still feeling what I would call a legitimate fear. We all do know that God is our refuge. Psalm 46 reminds us of that, "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear..." But we do.
And that’s not a judgement by any means, it’s a pretty normal human reaction. We are human, and (here’s something I never dreamed that I would ever write in a blogpost) we are also sinners. It makes me twitch to write that, so stick with me here. What I mean by that is we sometimes don’t think the way God wants us to.
“To Sin” literally means - to miss the mark, to miss the point, like an archer who misses the target. So when we sin, we are off track. We have missed God’s point for living. We’ve perhaps missed God altogether.
There’s quite a bit of evidence that these are scary times we’re living in. When we focus on those scary, fear-inducing conditions instead of focusing on God being our refuge, God being our safety and security, God being the One Source of Love...we’re sinning. Ugh. Great. What can we do about that?
There are so many ways to react to these tragic events that keep happening over and over. We can get angry, we can be so afraid we don’t want to leave the house, we can judge and blame others, we can get depressed and feel defeated. While those are all legitimate ways to react, that nobody’s really going to argue with, they don’t feel very good when we chose them. Deep down, we know they don’t jive with the love and joy that God wants us to experience in life.
One of our knee-jerk reactions to a negative news report like when there’s a mass shooting is to resist it. We complain about these horrible acts, we talk about them, we declare our outrage and fear! (Rightly so.) The problem with that is when we resist evil, we give it our attention and continue to make it real. Ellen Debenport is a Unity minister who explains in her book, The Five Principles, that when we argue for our fears, we reinforce the principle that what we focus on grows. We create our experience by where we place our attention. Ever heard that saying before, “What we resist, persists?”
She gives a great example: “Suppose the local news reports that a burglar has been breaking into homes in your neighborhood. Those who see the report buy extra locks, put bars on the windows and start sleeping with a gun nearby. Those who don’t see the report go about their business, oblivious and happy." The spiritual goal, she proposes, is to acknowledge there might be a burglar AND to live without fear, to hold a consciousness of well-being.
Many contemporary new thought leaders genuinely suggest not watching the news at all, and certainly not at night right before we go to sleep. The idea behind this is that you don’t want any negativity, any violence, any tragedy, any sense of evil to enter your Divine consciousness, which is actively focused on love, and light, and Truth, and God. It's a perfectly fine suggestion, and if you practice this and it's working for you--GREAT!
I did it myself for several years, but I stopped because I felt like I was losing out on an important opportunity. I was losing the chance to view tragic world events as a prayer request. When awful tragedies happen, I have the opportunity to pray and affirm what I know to be True of God and God’s world, even if it doesn’t seem true because of what’s happened.
If I see a story about a mass shooting, or terrorist attack, or some other hate-filled awful thing, I have the option to go within and affirm peace, harmony, and love. Wayne Dyer writes about this process in his book Being in Balance. He writes that when he hears about actions that are decidedly non-peaceful, he reminds himself to think and say: “I am an instrument of peace, and I send peaceful, loving thoughts to those people and places in the world who seem to need it so desperately. I refuse to collaborate with the energy of hatred anywhere, anytime.” He concludes with this powerful piece of advice:
“You break the cycle of violence in the world, not by hating violence, but by being your own instrument of peace.”
We can use the opportunity to affirm the opposite "God word," and be an expression of that. For instance, if there is hatred in the world, I know God is Love, and therefore, I am Love. If there is sadness, God is Joy, and I am an expression of that Joy. And in this case, if there is violence, I know God is Peace, … and I am peaceful.
We can make a conscious decision not to lower ourselves, lower our thinking, lower our energy when these things happen. Instead, we can go higher, to our refuge in God. There is a mystical text of Judaism called the Kabbalah, and there’s a lesson in it that says, “The falls of our life provide us with the energy to propel ourselves to a higher level.” I thought that was really beautiful. When world events go violent and low, we go can always go higher, to what we know to be true of God.
May the world work together to cultivate a faith founded on the Truth that God is all there is. May we learn to see God in all people, all circumstances, and situations, no matter how low they seem. May our spiritual understanding, for which we are so grateful, always lift and lead us higher. And so it is. Amen.
Rev. Cynthia McCarthy