Last night I stayed up way past my bedtime. I wanted to watch the meteor shower. So, at around midnight, I was standing in my backyard with my jaw hanging open, bouncing up and down with my hands shoved in my pockets trying to keep warm. But I didn’t mind the cold because every few seconds a tiny little light would shoot across the sky and I’d smile like a fool and think, Okay, Amanda Gayle… one more. Watch just one more and then go to bed. But then another one would shoot across the starry sky and I’d convince myself I’d watch just ONE more. An hour later the cold finally won out and I retreated to the warmth of my house.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling of awe and amazement I had felt watching those shooting stars. There was something about staring up at the sky, keenly aware of the vastness of the universe, and watching those meteorites which are older than I can imagine, which have traveled across time and space, that made me feel so very small. I don’t mean that I felt small in a bad way. It was a very good feeling… like standing next to the ocean and marveling at the huge-ness of it all. As I stood in my backyard, staring up into the endlessness of space, I knew that even in the midst of all that–in the midst of all the galaxies and stars and planets that God had taken the time to breathe the breath of life into me. With so much out there, God had still taken the time to call me by name. How amazing is that?
And then this afternoon I sat down at my computer to check my Facebook… and what I saw was nothing short of pure horror. At first, it looked like the shooting might have been between two men and I found myself praying it was domestic violence, or maybe even gang violence. Think about that for a moment… I was hoping for gang violence because the alternative was that children were the target of deadly violence. That’s how bad today was. Bad enough that people hearing the news were hoping and praying for any explanation that would spare children.
But it wasn’t to be. Children were the targets. And not just children… the youngest of the children present. Kindergartners. Five-year-olds. Children so young, so innocent, and so new to life that they probably didn’t even know to try to hide from the bullets. I have to stop there because the sheer horror of that image of children standing, terrified, before a madman with a gun is more than I can bear.
I felt small. And this time it was in a bad way.
I felt helpless.
But all day, as I followed the news, desperately searching for answers that will never come and crying out “Why?” over and over again in my heart, the memory of last night lingered.
It would come to me in fleeting moments. Driving to the gym to take a swim in order to clear my head I thought of those stars shooting across the sky so high above my head. Breathing in a deep breath in the eucalyptus room, I thought about how small I had felt and how that had made me feel so great. And I knew it all had to be connected. The stars falling from the sky last night and the children falling out of the grasp of our protection today. It had to be connected.
All day today I have tried to make sense of it all. I went about my usual routine, realizing that staring at a news cast was not going to make anything better. I spent the evening at church as the food pantry volunteers prepared the boxes of food to be given away tomorrow morning. I wrote a message to the families who would be receiving them. I revisited the Christmas story. And when it was all done, I took the dog for his evening walk, under those same stars I had stared at last night.
That’s when it suddenly hit me: The shooting stars and the school shooting… it was connected.
You see, we always have a choice in this world. We can be shooting stars, streaking across the sky and revealing God’s glory. Or we can be bullets shooting across a classroom, robbing the world of its future and of its hope and innocence.
Last night, I felt small, but I knew I was chosen in the midst of it all. Today I felt small and helpless… but I refuse to let the evil that exploded in our world today to make me feel insignificant.
God made sure that I knew last night, before tragedy struck, that I mattered. I may be small. And I might even be helpless in the face of terrible events. But I matter. Because I live for God and because I choose to be a shooting star rather than a shooting bullet, I can be a part of the beauty of this world rather than a part of its destruction.
I wish I had answers to give you… but the truth is, I don’t. All I know is that you were under those same stars with me, whether you were looking up at them or not… and that means you matter, too. We can–each and every one of us–be a part of the solution by choosing to be shooting stars.
Your Sister in Christ,
Rev. A.G. Reed