Those were the words from one of my colleagues in another presbytery as she reacted honestly from the gut to the horrific weekend of mass murders in El Paso and Dayton.
I immediately resonated with her. “I’m done. I’m done. I’m done,” I repeated over to myself as if I was meditating on some newfound mantra. I could not even mouth the usual words, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” They were stuck, hiding somewhere as if it weren’t safe to show their face. No longer did those words feel sympathetic as if I was joining my heart with the aching hearts of sisters and brothers, parents and children. They had an almost cruel sound to them as if I should expect a “F— you” or an angry middle finger salute for even uttering them.
“I’m done,” I said to myself repeatedly.
My heart is no longer big enough to contain this much grief. I can’t find any more room for mere empathy and understanding. My soul has no more room for this level of heartache and pain. I can’t even feel sympathy. As much as I care for the victims and their families I seem to care more for myself. Don’t ask me to repeat this ritual of thoughts and prayers again tomorrow or next week or next month. I can’t do it. My heart is not big enough for that. I cannot care for this weekend’s victims and also have enough compassion left over to be ready for next weekend’s victims.
This has to end. This has to end because it is killing our American soul. This has to end because it is tearing us apart. This has to end because no society can survive with her people simply waiting and wondering when it will be their turn. This has to end because I don’t have the capacity for that much grief and that much pain and that much trauma. My body and my psyche simply will not allow it.
So I’m done. I am done making promises from a safe distance to keep people in my thoughts and prayers as they bury their dead. I am done promising that a few moments will be kept sacred on Sunday to pray for the dead, the injured, and the traumatized communities. I am done keeping a template handy where all I have to do is insert a different date, a different number, different names and a different community into my prayers for the people.
I don’t know where you are at. Maybe you were done months before me and for that I applaud you. Maybe you still have it in you to offer your thoughts and prayers while hoping that someone–a legislator, a politician, a religious authority, or even God’s own self will do something to stop the insanity.
But I no longer believe thoughts and prayers are enough. In fact, without action the words sound hollow and even cruel. This is not going to stop. Some predict it will only escalate as would-be murderers plan to outdo each other like athletes pushing to break the next record.
I write this to you because if you too cannot utter the words “thoughts and prayers” without feeling sick to your stomach and without tearing up I am ready to join with you. I will help you organize. I will promote your efforts at conversation and advocacy and protest. I will draw us together as one community uniting as one powerful voice pushing against this murderous tide. I will support efforts at having a presbytery public witness. I will do anything I can do to end this insanity.
Goddammit, I want to feel normal again.
Please don’t get me wrong. I do still pray for our nation. I do still ache for victims and families and best friends. I do still feel terribly awful and broken up by the ripping of flesh, the tearing of families and the trauma of communities.
But I am already thinking of next week’s mass murder. And I don’t have it in me to start pre-planning for another round of thoughts and prayers. That will not stop the bullets.
I’m done with thoughts and prayers. Bodies are being sacrificed for the cause of hatred. Now it will take some of us, the faithful, sacrificing our bodies for love.
“This is my body broken for you. Do this, do what you have to do, in remembrance of me.”