Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Was Held Up At Gun Point!

On our way home from a concert Sunday night, Jeannette & I stopped at the 7-11 on 167th in Oak Forest. The number of times we've been in this particular 7-11 can't really be accurately counted, as we used to live right across the street.  This was our easy place for coffee, Slurpee's, and milk.

As we expected, the sign outside was lit up, along with all of the lights inside.  Getting out of the car, we were talking about the concert and wanting Slurpee's for the ride home (We've become a big Slurpee family). Our talking and wanting was cut off though when the front door wouldn't open.  "Locked?"

We both just stood there for a second staring at the door. I think we were both silently mourning not getting the Slurpee's (Seriously have you had the Barq's Slurpee? Don't knock it till you try it).

We turned to leave but then the owner appeared and unlocked the door for us.  As we were walking in he said, "Sorry guys - I leave the door locked now this late at night. I was held up by gunpoint two weeks ago."

My immediate reaction was simple: "WHAT?!?!?!"

He went on: "Right here in the store. They made me lie down on the floor and had their guns pointed at me."

We could see in his eyes how shook to the core he was.  He said, "It's changed my life. It totally messed me up."  To say he was shook to the core is an understatement.

He was walking around the store as he talked but came back by us while we were pouring our drinks.  I said to him, "I'm so sorry that you experienced that.  I can't imagine how freaked out you must be.  Not trying to be stupid by saying this, but you experienced something pretty traumatic - have you considered talking to someone about it?"

He didn't hesitate in his answer. "I need to!  I really need to. Its changed my life. I mean, I'm a believer- but this totally messed me up.  I can't stop thinking about it.  Any time the chime rings at night I jerk up. When I see someone who looks like the guys I start getting nervous, and I was never like that.  It's changed how I see everything."

Isn't that the truth.  Going through something like that - it changes how one sees everything.

Here's two other truths:
  1. We've all been "held up by gun point"
  2. Those moments change how we see everything
Now, you might not have ever literally stared down the barrel of a gun or known one was pointed at you.  Regardless, I'd bet hearing the cancer diagnosis felt similar.  Or the phone call hearing that your loved one died.  Or seeing your church fall apart.  Or the abusing dad.  Or the cheating spouse.  Or the lies told about you.  Or the betrayal.  Or the eviction.  Or the shattered dream.

We might not know what it looks like to stare down the barrel of a thief's gun, but the aftermath we've all experienced.  Or we will.  The aftermath of hurt, fear, anger, confusion, and sometimes gut wrenching pain.  As the 7-11 owner said, "Its changed my life."

The pain from those moments can change how we see everything.  People are held at a distance.  Hope is a disillusionment.  We always wonder what they are doing when we're not around.  Church leaders are no longer trustworthy.  We aren't good enough.  There's no way we could commit to someone and risk getting hurt.  God is no more - or, if He is still there, He's a jerk.  

We can't stop thinking about what we've experienced, even though sometimes we try to bury it or deny it.  We can't stop experiencing the pain, even though we attribute it to other things.  Like the 7-11 owner said, "It changes how we see everything." 

For the last few days I've been thinking about the owner of that store and this idea of lingering pain.  Maybe you also have such pain right now or you know what it's like to experience it (don't deny it).  Just a few brief thoughts:

1.  Our souls are not bottomless pits.
Regardless of how expert we may consider ourselves at soul storage, no one can bury pain completely or forever.  It will come out.  Normally it coming out will result in us hurting loved ones in acts of overreaction.

2. It is not wrong to feel pain 
Anyone who gives you a "Get over it and trust God" speech is an idiot.  Not because you shouldn't trust God but because instead of empathizing with you and carrying you, the person is reacting to their not knowing how to respond.  They don't have answers, so rather than admitting that they give you a pat answer.  Life brings pain.  That pain is...PAINFUL!  Don't be afraid to be real, even if those around you don't know how to respond.  (Psalm 22)

3.  Find someone to open up to
I literally let out a sigh of relief when the 7-11 owner responded to my suggestion that he talk to someone with, "I need to."  A lot of people would have said, "No, I'm good."  Until you talk about what you've experienced then you haven't dealt with what you've experienced.  (James 5:16)

4. Give God a chance
Rich Mullins wrote, "I know that I am only lashing out at the one who loves me most." Whether we realize it or not, all of our blame and anger ultimately points an accusing finger back at God.  Why did He let it happen?  There are a ton of theological discussions behind an answer to that question (God's soverignty, free will, good & evil, etc), that are each multiple blog entries in and of themselves.  But just something to think about here: what if He really is good? What if He really does love you & care for you?  Maybe He isn't a divine jerk.  Maybe He is a divine, almighty, loving, caring God whose heart breaks along with yours.  (Psalm 77, Isaiah 40)

5. Understanding "Why" is important
Have the courage to ask yourself why your pain happened.  This is probably one of the hardest questions we'll ever have to answer, the difficulty laying in what the answer could reveal.  Are we staring down the barrel of a gun because someone pulled it on us or because we pulled it on ourselves?  Did I put myself in this mess or did someone else initiate things?  Realizing this can lead to confession and repentance in our own lives, or even healthy clarity on where we stand before God & others.

6.  Baby steps
Don't expect things to get better over night.  The more intense the pain the longer the healing.  So take baby steps.  Work on things at a pace you are comfortable with: talking to people, praying, confronting issues.  Just keep moving forward.  Stay connected to people who care about you.  Don't stop and don't give up.  One day at a time, one step at a time.

There is more that can and probably should be said on an issue like this.  Forgiveness could be talked about (and should be), as well as having faith in what God can do with our painful situations.  But maybe another night.   These are the things on my heart right now.

May God bring healing and hope to the hurting.
May God provide advocates and those who will come alongside. 

And I know you bore our sorrows
And I know you feel our pain
And I know it would not hurt any less
Even if it could be explained

And I know that I am only lashing out
At the One who loves me most
And after I figured this, somehow
All I really need to know

Is if You who live in eternity
Hear the prayers of those of us who live in time
We can't see what's ahead
And we can not get free of what we've left behind
I'm reeling from these voices that keep screaming in my ears
All the words of shame and doubt, blame and regret

I can't see how You're leading me unless You've led me here
Where I'm lost enough to let myself be led
And so You've been here all along I guess
It's just Your ways and You are just plain hard to get 

     - Rich Mullins, from the song "Hard to Get"


Anonymous said...

Bobby, this is lovely. It really makes one stop and think, so many good points. Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

What a profound, memorable image of pain and its long-term effects. I'll be thinking over this post for a while yet, I think. Thanks for posting a blog worth reading, Bobby.
-Tim Newton

bobby moss said...

Thanks for the comments! I appreciate it!