–Reflections on life and the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy
by: Patricia A. Go written: May 25, 2022
I can see the world around me sinking. Two years ago, COVID-19 was born, which crippled operations of the entire world. Many millions of people perished from the virus; many more got sick. There is the ongoing war in Ukraine, where many people are being slaughtered and are suffering because of the anger and hatred around them. Inflation here in the States has been at 40-year high, making everything from gasoline to our daily bread becoming more expensive than ever. Then, just yesterday, an 18-year old gunman opened fire in Uvalde, Texas, shooting 19 people, including his own grandmother and several elementary school students, for who knows what reason.
I was not made aware of the Uvalde tragedy until I came home from work last night. What I feel now is numbness, shock and disbelief. How can this tragedy keep on happening? How long will it be until something changes? Yes, I agree with people who say we need to change governmental policies, especially with certain people having access to guns that shouldn’t. However, even if we change policies and enact stricter laws, I am convinced that evil will continue to rear its ugly head in other, but equally tragic ways.
I sense God saying to us as a society: It’s time.
It’s time to stop chasing after the temporal in life like money, material possessions and notoriety or fame.
It’s time to hold our loved ones close, treasure the time that God has given us, and look to the things of eternity that will never fade, be stolen, or rot away.
It’s time to teach children how to love and be loved in the most biblical, selfless way possible.
It’s time to seek God’s will and ways.
It’s time to care for those who are on the brink of suicide or desperation. Engage with them. Encourage them and be there for all those who are suffering. Don’t add stigma by giving moral labels to people’s feelings and thoughts in self-righteous condemnation or judgment.
It’s time not just to enact change in governmental policy, but also bring hope and show Christlike love to those around us, which will enable the Spirit to change hearts, which will initiate a true, lasting change in behavior and temperament.
It’s time for us to forgive our enemies, and to make peace with all those around us.
It’s time to not live in fear but to live with a sense of urgency, joy and fulfillment.
Time continues to tick, and we do not know how much of it we have left. I believe God is urging us to wake up. WAKE UP! God is telling me—telling us— to not be complacent with life and to make as much positive difference as we can.
Wake up and live each day as if it were your last, because one day it will be. Either you will regret how you lived your life for eternity or it can be a day of rejoicing and fulfillment of your God-given purpose!
Despite it being a sunny and pleasant day, weather-wise, I had no motivation left to do anything. I felt ashamed, useless, angry, and powerless. Much of who I identified with was tied to my job. I was one of the top performers there, and since my job and seemingly everything that went with it was taken away from me, I was devastated. Most of my friends were tied up either at work or being swept through with the daily stressors of their lives. Besides, I no longer wanted to add burdens to them by relating *my* stresses.
I planned to take the books, magazines and DVDs my parents and I had borrowed and return them to the library, and then go to my church as a last ditch effort to get the emotional care I so desperately needed at the time. It was around three-thirty in the afternoon. I did not think anyone was in there, since most of the staff I thought already went home during this time.
I thought to myself that if that didn’t work, then I was going to have to find some way to end it all. I did not really have any specific exit plan, but I knew if I didn’t get help, this Monster inside me was going to take over and destroy me forever.
I tried to open the front door, that led to the church sanctuary, where services were held. Of course, that was locked, since there was no service at that time of day. However, I saw several cars parked in front of the church office.
“Good,” I thought to myself. ” Maybe someone is there.”
I tried to open the door to the church office. It was unlocked. I walked quickly to the church foyer where people usually ate and congregated before services. I saw a man. Immediately, I felt a heavy spirit pressing upon me, as I wept from utter relief and overwhelm.
“I need to talk to a pastor.” I told him, in desperation. Then, the man quickly notified a couple of my pastors that I was there and needed support.
After that, the assistant pastor Ted* and the youth director, A.J came out. They immediately sensed something was wrong with me. All the overwhelming feelings and past experiences that were attached to my depression, spilled in words of desperation out of my mouth. I had expected to be condemned or ridiculed, or just brushed aside. Ted and A. J did neither of those. Instead, they listened patiently and encouraged me, as I dealt with my feelings of shame, anger and hurt that I tried to bury for many months before. A.J invited me to volunteer at church the next day to clean and organize some things in it, and he prayed for my healing and strength to get through this tough time. The teens in the church were also planning to volunteer. I felt a sense of relief and hope that I was finally heard and that I was not rejected by them. I knew God had brought them there at that time to save my life!
The next day, I went to volunteer at church. I almost felt like I was working again. I was energized and felt better about myself and the world around me. What I did not know, is that God would be working again through the speaker in the evening service, later that day.
It was around 5:45 in the evening, and the wind was fairly strong, but not overly so. I was sitting outside on the church steps leading to the sanctuary waiting for the church to be opened, so I could go inside and eat my dinner, which I had stored in the church’s refrigerator.
Then, suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a car pull up by the church office. “Good!” I thought. ” Maybe that’s A. J and he will be able to open the door for me.”
It turned out to be the missionary, Tim Bundy, who was going to be a guest speaker at the church that evening! I told him that my name was Patricia and that I was a member of the church.
Then, later the children’s ministry director, Sara, * opened the door for me and I was able to eat my dinner.
I was still feeling a little depressed and lonely as I waited for service to start. However, I was still a lot better than I was the previous afternoon before I went to the church.
Bundy talked about how God had led him into the ministry and how he had found his wife. However, it was when he turned to the message that I really felt God speaking to me through him that would change my mindset for the better.
He talked about how God can use anyone, even those who have disabilities or problems to accomplish His will in their lives.
He says, “There is nothing we can offer God, but the willingness to be used of Him. [God says], ‘I have called each and every one of you to be used of Me equally. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have riches, or strength, or popularity, or fame or influence; you have Me, and as I lead you, that is all you will ever need.”
Bundy also talked about the extent of God’s love, and how God does not love us less based on what we do or experience in our life. Furthermore, he talked about how God loves all kinds of people, even the drug addict or the difficult boss or family member who does not want to hear about Him, that we should look at them with the boundless grace and mercy God looked at us even before we were conceived.
I felt God speaking to me, right then, saying, “You can forgive the people that hurt you at your former job and in your past. You don’t have to be angry and bitter at them anymore. You can let them go now. You can let Me take care of them for you. You don’t have to get even. You just show them the love and grace that I showed you.”
God also said, “I still can use you even though you don’t have a job now. You still can be used of Me if you are willing to trust me that I have the best possible plan for you. You are not useless, powerless or shameful. You are Mine, and you can draw upon My strength to persevere throughout your life.”
God saved me from making a mistake that could have taken my life prematurely, through the support and care of my pastors, the message that He spoke through Tim Bundy, and the determination and joy that Tim and Jennifer have for ministering and soul winning for the people of Ethiopia. I still struggle at times, but knowing that God is on my side and will help me persevere gives me peace and strength to not give up on what God has for my life.
If you would like to support Timothy and Jennifer Bundy’s ministry, please see this link . Like me, they are trusting God to use them mightily.
*= These names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals mentioned.
This year has been an adventure for me, in both good and bad ways, but God has still been working in the midst of it all. While God has worked, He has also taught me so much about how to live life in the midst of the chaos that is this world. Here are some of the things God taught me this year:
1) Be grateful for what you have.–In mid-February of this year, much of the city where I lived in, including my family, experienced either a water or electricity (or both) outage for days on end. Before this past winter, I took water and electricity for granted. I did not think about the precious commodity that water and electricity are. I was extremely grateful that during that time, our electricity still worked. However, we did not have running water for about 5 days. Thankfully, God provided snow for us to be able to boil so that we had water to at least flush the toilets.
2) Be compassionate and patient with others.– God showed me the pain and suffering some of the people around me are facing this year, either by the person relating their pain to me or through another person relating that someone they know was going through a tragedy, illness, or emotional distress. Through this, God taught me to be more compassionate to what others may be going through and not get easily angered or upset when people inconvenience me or are rude to me. God also taught me through this that when people snap at me for no good reason, sometimes their anger is not really about me, but about what they are going through at the moment. I don’t need to take it personally, or that they are spiteful.
3) Don’t be so anxious.–God has really been working to help me become less anxious. He allowed me to experience a drop in my performance to test my reaction to it. In the past, when my performance dropped below my expectations (note: NOT my managers’ expectations) or a certain number, I got really worked up and had an upset anxiety to my demeanor. Now when that happens, I may get slightly annoyed, but I do not really think too much about it anymore other than to try better next time. I also learned to anticipate these and other anxiety-provoking situations better, and plan what to do in case an anxiety trigger happens next time, so I don’t completely freak out.
Overall, I think this has been a good year for me, despite still being in a pandemic. I not only learned to be more grateful, to be more compassionate and more patient (but still learning continuously), and to be less anxious, but I also found some places where I could belong and to impact the world for the better.
Dedicated to my friend Alex, who taught me how to let go of all that holds me back and to love freely
I have found that as I go through life, I have not been able to do everything that I wanted, say everything I have wanted to my loved ones, or even see everyone I have wanted to see at certain times in my life. I had to learn to let go of these expectations and desires. In fact, my pastor said, to a mostly younger audience, something like, “Don’t wait until you’re old to let go of things. Do it now while you are still young.” He also explained that as one ages, that one has to let go of more things, until things, both literal and figurative, fall out of their grasp. The three main areas I am learning and/or have learned to let go include: a.) past hurts and offenses. b) my possessions c.) my expectations, with c , being the toughest for me to release.
When I was even a decade younger, I had the most difficult time letting go of grudges. I would hold on to internal anger for years, if I deemed the offense serious enough to merit that much wrath. Every time I would see the person or person that hurt me, I had a mixture of terror and disgust. This grudge-holding greatly impaired my ability to fully be myself even around my closest friends. I was afraid that they, too, would hurt me, like my offender did. However, about a year and a half ago, I was able to finally let go of the grudges I had against several people. I remember that my grudge against one person was so bad, that I thought of how angry and hurt I was, even in church! The anger was so intense; I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The grudge I had against them became all-consuming. When I finally saw the light and let go of my grudge, I found that I was able to feel compassion and even love for them. I realized I didn’t want to die holding a grudge against anyone. I wish I had let go of my grudges earlier, because I would have been a much easier person to be around. I would have become less bitter and less angry. I want to be able to love freely without a barrier between anyone else and me.
I have also been learning how to let go of some of my possessions. One of my friends has had to let go of almost everything he once owned or stewarded, including things he treasured. However, in letting go of these things, he has learned that he is able to love more freely. Through him, and what he has given me, I have learned that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive! Also, over time, certain things that I have had in my possession have either broken or gotten old. I have also learned to let go of certain material possessions because I know someone else needed it more than I did. In my sophomore year of high school, I remember getting really upset because someone had stolen my yearbook with people already having signed it! I recently gave my dad my old mp3 player because he needed one for our last vacation. Although that one is better than the one I have now, I don’t have much regret because I know that mp3 player will bless my dad. Over the years, through church and my jobs, I have learned the value of generosity and sharing, and that it is not good to hold on to “stuff” too tightly. One of the congregants in my church had described the process of letting go of stuff in this analogy:
Everything we own is on a big conveyor belt—our cars, our televisions, our houses, our food, etc. We are also on the conveyor belt enjoying our stuff. The conveyor belt is moving very slowly. In fact, it is moving so slowly, you don’t even realize it’s moving. But then, at the very end of the conveyor belt is a dumpster. Everything we own is ultimately going to be put in the dumpster—to be thrown away. Then, we get off the conveyor belt. The ‘getting off’ part signifies our passing from the earth.
The last thing that I am learning to let go (and still struggle with releasing) is my expectations. I absolutely hate it when circumstances turn out worse than I expect! For instance, I expect a day at work to be easy, but then it turns out to be a really stressful one. I tend to get upset at God and everyone else when that happens. One thing that I used to get really upset about is when I expect traffic to be smooth, but it turns out to be very jammed. However, when I went to where my relatives lived, I had to deal with consistently jammed traffic almost every day I was there. This situation helped me to let go of my expectation that traffic always be smooth every time I wanted to go somewhere, and also appreciate the relatively good traffic system here! Yesterday, I expected to be able to buy a book I needed for a class/bible study I’m taking at church. However, since my pastor (who was substituting for the pastor and teacher of this class/bible study) couldn’t find the books that the teacher had ordered, I will have to wait until at least Sunday to be able to get them. At first I admit I was a bit annoyed, but I quickly was able to enjoy and learn from my pastor without really worrying about the book. I learned that sometimes I have to adjust and make the best of the situation at hand, and not get upset and complain that things should be different. I also recently learned that even through these tough situations, God is still there for me and will give me the grace to handle these situations in a godly manner.
Everyone has to let go of, at least, some things in life. Even though we may not be able to do everything we want, say everything we want to say, or even see our loved ones and friends sometimes, we still can be content in our circumstances by letting go of the expectation that we have to get what we want when we want it. In letting go, I am realizing more and more, that there is a freedom in just letting things be. What do you need to let go of today? What are some things that you struggle or have struggled with letting go? Feel free to discuss in comments.
I have struggled on and off with depression for a long time. Thankfully, God put several people in my life that showed me how to have passion and purpose in my life. Having passion and purpose in my life has motivated me to work harder and with more joy than ever before. This has caused my depression to dissipate significantly.
However, lack of passion and purpose can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. I see many people in today’s society just going to work to pay the bills, and for not much else. Consequently, when they have to do something they don’t like or when a co-worker or client really pushes their buttons, they become angry and/or miserable. The same goes with students who are in school only because “their parents or guardians forced them.” They typically don’t have motivation to work hard and be the best they can be. Moreover, their attitude shows that they can’t wait to graduate or somehow get out of school.
When I was in elementary school, I had to complete an assignment that I loathed. At the time, I had the attitude of many of the students who feel forced to go to school and do homework. Basically, I refused to do the assigned work until my grade for the class would suffer if I didn’t. So, finally, I had to force myself to do the work. Miraculously, I was able to pass the class! After that, I learned a major life lesson that I have strived to carry throughout my life—Sometimes you have to do work you don’t like. Do not try to procrastinate or avoid doing it. Do it first and well enough so it’s out of the way.
When I was in a Bible Study group several months ago, I learned another lesson of passion and purpose that has helped me maintain joy at my job. The lesson can be summed up in this quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Learn to love what must be done.” That is, find joy in the work you are doing now. Several days ago, I was initially perturbed and not very happy because they had assigned me to down stack totes, and I thought I was assigned that because I was not performing well at work. Also, that was my least favorite part of the job. However, after one of my managers assured me that I wasn’t in trouble, I decided to find joy in this task by doing the best I could do. This motivation to do well eventually made this task a bit more joyful and motivating to me!
Some people may think to themselves, “Why should I do my best if I don’t get a tangible reward for it?” First of all, even if you do get a tangible reward for good work, it will eventually disappear in some way, whether it would be consumed, stolen, broken or spent (as in the case with money). Nothing tangible or material will last forever. Second of all, when you know you have done your best, you can acknowledge that fact within yourself. Don’t listen to people who try to criticize your best efforts, especially if you know they are unwarranted. Finally, when you consistently do your best job, your work quality will eventually improve and you will be more respected, if even only for your work ethic. This happened to me at a job many years ago before I had to quit. Even though the manager wasn’t pleased at how slow I was going, he did acknowledge that I was still working hard. Many years later, I am motivated to work hard because I know it will eventually lead to my work quality getting better.
Another way to find passion and purpose in your life is to have a thirst for learning. Beware of jobs where you are not allowed to even learn new things within your own department. If you are having trouble at school in a certain class or at work with your performance in a certain area, learn as much as you can about that area or subject in order to improve your work. For instance, one of the areas I had struggled in retail is cashiering. A couple years ago, I decided to train as a backup cashier, as maybe I would improve in this area. After several months of training, I became confident enough to cashier on my own, and became one of the few registered trained associates, aside from the regular cashiers, in my store! This brought me so much joy and a sense of accomplishment, especially since not everyone believed I was able to handle that job!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, find a purpose that drives your entire life. Make sure that purpose will bring you lasting joy and fulfillment. My purpose in life can be summed up in the Westminster’s Confession, which says,” Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Glorifying and enjoying God has brought me much joy, not only in my job, but also in my interactions with other. Glorifying God has freed me up to love others as He has loved me, without having to work so hard to impress other people to get them to like me. Enjoying God has helped me trust in His love more and to appreciate all that He has done for me and all that He is to me. Most importantly, my purpose in life has helped motivate me every day to continue to persevere in life even when I am tempted to give up. Eventually, this perseverance reaps its rewards and brings me joy. When we have that kind of passion and purpose in life we will yield great joy.
There has been much division and enmity in this country between Republicans and Democrats, Blacks and Whites, Immigrants and people who have been born here, and between many other societal identifiers. Then, my good online friend introduced to me to Fraggle muppets, and in particular, Gonzo, who embodies who I would like to be like in some ways.
For years, I have struggled to accept who God created me to be. When I was growing up, I was on the outside looking in, and frantically trying to achieve good grades in my classes to somehow someday be truly loved and accepted as I am, and, in turn, accept myself as well.
Though I still struggle sometimes with accepting myself as God created me to be, when I discovered Gonzo and more of who he was and is as a Muppet “Whatever”/alien, I realized many things about appreciating and embracing diversity, including my own.
Gonzo is a very unique creature with a personality that can be described as “eccentric,” “eclectic” or “weird.” However, Gonzo also strives to embrace his life and those around him fully. Gonzo is secure enough in who he is as a Whatever/Alien that he doesn’t try to change his personality or being just to be approved or accepted by others. Gonzo’s personality and attitude toward life has taught me that I am GOOD the way I am. I don’t mean to say that I don’t struggle daily with sin (I do) and that I should not try to change my sinful ways and repent of them (I should). However, what I mean is that the way God created me is inherently good. Also, I do not have to constantly seek approval or validation from other people to confirm this fact. Also, if people do not like the way I am, and it is not for some sin I committed against them, but for something that is a part of how I was wired, I do not have to doubt if I am worthy to be alive or if God truly loves me or not.
Gonzo and his friends have also taught me some important lessons about how to truly love others. When we truly love others, we will accept them for who God created them to be without trying to change them into something they are truly not. Gonzo’s friends, and especially his girlfriend, Camilla, who is a chicken, do not really care if he is weird and do not really try to change him into being more “normal.” Also, my real friends and others who are on Team Me will embrace me the way Gonzo’s friends have. If I am a really friends with someone else, I will not try to change them into the person I want them to be if that is not how God created them or how they were wired by Him in the first place. I will love them unconditionally. Gonzo also demonstrates this to his girlfriend Camilla by not trying to stop her from expressing herself in “chicken talk” or by forcing her to change some aspect of how she was already created. Even though Gonzo and Camilla are very different from each other, they truly love each other even and because of their unique qualities.
We should too. Instead of having enmity against the other “side,” so to speak, maybe we should seek to understand where they are coming from. Instead of mocking or shaming the “weird” or “eccentric,” or letting other people bully or mock them, we should stand up for these unique individuals and learn from them. Maybe, we could make a new friend. After all, there is a Gonzo-like uniqueness in all of us that helps us embrace life fully, with all that there is.
I have seen and heard a lot of vitriol recently in my social media feed regarding our government, the coronavirus response, and quarantine life in general. Although some of the vitriol has come from non-Christians, I have seen a disturbing number of professing believers also being just as vicious in their messages, and, as a follower of Christ, that makes me so upset and sad. Just to clarify, I have also seen some believers being very gracious and kind in their responses to those who disagree with them, especially my former pastor who responds with the grace and dignity that I can only hope that more people, no matter their religious affiliation, would emulate. However, here are some things that I have heard and/or witnessed myself with some of those who profess belief in Christ that have grieved me, and that believers (myself included) should make sure we never do or stop doing, if we struggle with these issues.
Not showing grace to those who disagree with them.—Years ago, before I was a true believer in Christ, I have to admit I was guilty of this. I condemned and cursed those who would even criticize my favorite musical group. Thankfully, I have grown from that, and I aim to show grace to those who disagree with my views on life. Unfortunately, I was reading one of my friend’s social media feeds (The friend is a strong believer), and their friends (also believers) seemed to be attacking one another and not showing very much grace to one another. I would be horrified to hear what non-Christians who witnessed this would think of us believers now in light of this! I would advise believers like myself to refrain from engaging in arguments or discussions if you are unable to keep from condemning or otherwise bad mouthing your opponent. This silence will keep your witness from being marred or even destroyed and from giving the enemies of the Lord occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14).
Loving their neighbor, but hating their enemies.—Going along with the first point, we should strive to love those around us, even our enemies. I know it’s tough, and I also struggle with this. However, when we see even our enemies, as fellow image-bearers of God with real dreams and goals, we can make a new friend out of them! When I decided to humble myself before God and follow what Jesus said in Matt 5:44, which says,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” winning them over is eventually what happened in numerous situations. For instance, I had trouble getting along with one of my now-former managers. In fact, at some point, I would actually have been honest in saying I hated them! However, after God revealed to me the unnecessary bitterness and anger in my heart towards them, I eventually saw them with eyes of love and compassion. Now, I hold them close to my heart as one of my good friends.
Being prideful or self-righteous in any situation, especially when being confronted with sin in their lives.—I can usually tell if a person is a mature Christian by the way they respond to criticism and when they are confronted with their sins. For instance, when confronted with criticism over an article he linked about obeying government, my pastor did not respond with vitriol or pride. Instead, he humbly and gracefully explained his position, which caused some of the people who criticized him to examine the issue further and not get upset. However, I also had a friend who I had to confront because they had violated my boundaries more than once, and instead of humbly apologizing or respecting me, they got upset and told me I was “crazy.” Both my pastor and my friend would claim to be professing Christians, but the way each of them responded reflects how true their belief in Christ really is. Unlike what society around us may say, pride is not an attractive quality in anyone. Humility is, because it shows that you can be real with someone without playing the victim or feeling attacked.
Being one person in public, and another behind closed doors.—Believing one thing and doing another is called being a hypocrite, and being two-faced will grossly undermine any credible witness you may have. In order to combat this, strive to be transparent with others about how you are living your life. This may include sharing your struggles with at least one or two close friends, and inviting their accountability and encouragement to do better. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. In Galatians 6:2 (KJV), it says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” I believe when this verse says to bear one another’s burdens, it also includes letting other people bear yours! Yes, I understand that trusting others is difficult sometimes, but do you trust God to do what is best for you through them? God will never let you go, and He has a good plan for you always, for a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28).
When we as a Body of believers resolve never to do these four things, we can have a major impact for the Kingdom of God! We can be the authentic, cross-bearing, Jesus loving believers we were created by God to be!