There's the smile, and then...
Having experienced the grief of our son being murdered (July 18, 2011), I know something about what the families of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church shooting victims are experiencing. It's visible in them. It shines through the unexpected horror and the sea of emotions that has changed their lives forever. A prime example was the interview Fox News played just a few minutes ago. Chris Singleton, a student and baseball player at Charleston Southern University spoke about his mother, victim Sharonda Singleton. There is no doubt his heart is broken. I wept as he talked about her. He even smiled as he remembered her life and faith. Something in him communicated hope. It was evident as members of Emanuel church were interviewed as well.
That the victims of the Charleston murder rampage were in church tells us something important about them. They were believers attending a Bible study and prayer service on a Wednesday evening. Ask any pastor to tell you about the Wednesday evening church members. You can't assume too much about them and there is the book and cover thing. But, the mid-week group are usually very committed people. There are other dynamics at play here, but they are typically folks of deep faith. That is to say that when people talk about them, this faith is going to be central to their remembrance.
Likely the family members of the victims are people of faith too. Once again, I know the danger of assuming too much about them. But, let's say they are believers too. This means they will be motivated by a desire to remember their loved ones in a positive way, and to let their own light shine as they communicate their loss. I remember the weight of knowing that there were many eyes on us and that God had placed us on a platform where many would observe the reality of faith in us.
But, then, the microphones, crowds, and eyes are gone. The victims families will retreat to the solitude of their homes and experience the dark nights of the soul. They will pray, struggle through the depths of their grief, do hand to hand combat with the evil one, and seek answers to dozens of hard questions. The visibility of the events that took their loved ones will keep everything on the front pages every day for a long time. They will alternate between a public persona of personal strength and hope, and private moments of ordeal. There will be laughter and fond remembrance. Then there will be enormous grief.
Solomon wrote, "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief" (Proverbs 14:13). Even deeply injured people can smile and laugh. This is especially true when people of faith endure tragic circumstances. I remember when Brian was murdered. Something precious and dear had been taken from us. I cannot describe the sense of loss that overwhelmed us. Underneath however, there was faith and hope. It enabled us to remember Brian and speak of him with a smile. But, as Solomon reminds us, beyond the smiles and laughter and joy, there will be loss. Tremendous loss.
Here's the deal. Pray for them. Know that there are smiles, and then...