I sit here with a knot in my stomach and tears rolling down my cheek as I reflect on the recent terror attack in Orlando — the worst terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.
Forty-nine souls have been lost, and well over 50 others are wounded. Undoubtedly, this incident will be framed by those on the left as gun violence, or hate crime against those who identify as LGBT (lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender). On the right, the same incident will probably be framed as an Islamic terror issue.
But, I cannot help but think of all the souls who died. I can’t help but wonder how these individuals went into that club not knowing that they were experiencing their last hours on earth. And while both sides, as expected, quickly identify the political issues, neither side addresses the fundamental questions.
I recall as a teenager, how I went to Miami clubs until the early morning hours with the thought of having fun and to look cute. I wanted to feel the music and move to its rhythms. I wanted to enjoy my friends and maybe meet a cute guy. The very last thing on my mind was the state of my soul — was I ready to step into the afterlife? Was I ready to meet my maker?
Now, with the advantage of decades of hindsight, including this tragic aftermath of the Orlando massacre, I wish I could go back in time to my younger self, and to those who lost their lives and share with them that the love and acceptance they are looking for cannot be found in the clubs, and that the lifestyle they were living would not bring contentment or peace.
On the contrary, the consequences of their choices would bring unfulfillment and pain. But my saying these words would not be out of judgment or condemnation.
Rather, I would share these words with a longing of wanting them to escape years, or an eternity, of regret. It would be my hope that they would come to know a God that can make them not only feel accepted, but truly clean and whole — unlike the fleeting effects of pills, drinks, sex, or simply novel experiences.
Now, I know for some my bringing up the subject of God and faith in this context is like dragging nails on a chalkboard. “How dare she bring up a subject like ‘religion’ at a time such as this?” they might ask. For these individuals, they may view religion as purely divisive, and the actual cause of these deaths, because the man who committed this atrocity did it in the name of Islam.
But I am not talking about superficial acts based on pious traditions. I am alluding to a reality that when we are faced with evil or tragedy we are somehow able to move pass the stereotypical political cliches (even for a moment) and ask the truly important questions that such tragedies engender?. We become more open and honest.
Instead of simply asking the rationalistic question of, “how could such a thing happen?” we identify with the victims. And we collectively mourn with the family and friends who feel the loss of their loved ones. In the back of our minds, we ask ourselves the ultimate questions of “why” did the event occur, and “what” happens to the victims now?
These questions reveal that we are more than mere flesh and blood and their answers do matter. There is a reality that transcends us. This is why so many of us inevitably look to God and why the reality of God is to be assumed rather than be denied. Our understanding, and our relationship with Him, is as relevant to this tragedy as all the political issues being debated, if not even more so!
This is why I find it peculiar and revealing that in today’s “tolerant” and “enlightened” society, this seems to be the one place where the popular media is not willing to go.
As rational human beings, we have to come to terms with the concepts of evil, pain, and loss. To simply discuss political issues and give platitudes may help some forget and move on, but getting the answers to these fundamental questions — questions that impact all of us — is what truly brings comfort and healing.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]