A Heart's Cry for The City Beautifulby Megan Tucker
When I woke up last Sunday to the news that my hometown, Orlando, Florida, was now home to “The Deadliest Mass Shooting in America,” I was paralyzed. All morning at church I refreshed my Facebook feed repeatedly. All day I scoured the media, incessantly searching for more information, victims’ names, police officers involved – are my friends okay?
I have driven past Pulse at least a hundred times. I have friends who live 500 feet from the nightclub, who woke up in the two o’clock hour to helicopters, sirens, flashing lights, gunfire, and screams. A friend I did mission work with knows the mother of a victim. A college classmate helped dress the mother of eleven who died taking a bullet for her son, for her funeral. A friend’s cousin was a 911 operator who took the calls that early morning and listened as her first caller was killed while on the line. My sister went to high school with the SWAT officer who was shot in the head, saved only by his kevlar helmet which stopped the bullet.
Though I live here, my heart is there. I am intimately and intricately connected to Orlando and the trauma that she has endured, and as such, I have woken up every morning with the same thought:
Oh, Orlando. Orlando. Orlando.
Every day I consider getting on the next plane to Orlando just to sit near the memorial at Dr. Phillips Center with a sign that reads I’ll hug you – I’ll listen to you – I’ll pray with you.
I have struggled all week trying to gauge and measure my response in the wake of the tragedies that have seemingly swallowed Orlando whole. I have wrestled with words to describe the ache in my heart, and I have felt my heart burn in a way that I wasn’t aware was possible.
All week, practically all day, I have wrestled with the question of how do I help Orlando heal from here? and what ought my response be to this tragedy?
A Picture for the City
I woke up Thursday morning with the same initial thought as every other day that week:
Oh, Orlando. Orlando. Orlando.
As I prayed through my morning routine and getting ready for work, the Father gifted me with what I will hold dear as one of the most beautiful images I have ever seen, and one of the sweetest kisses he has ever given me.
As I prayed for Orlando and her people, I saw Jesus walking down the streets of the city I hold so close to my heart.
He walked up State Road 50, down Orange Avenue. I watched as he walked 17-92, walked around Lake Eola, walked through Church Street. I watched as he walked on I4, all down the 408, and up the 417.
I watched him walk around Orlando and through the neighboring cities and towns. And everything that Jesus touched, everywhere he walked, the black and white that had settled over the city turned to vibrant color.
Everywhere he walked, Jesus traced his fingers on the edges of buildings, around street signs, gently grazing his fingertips on tree trunks and flower petals and plant leaves.
When Jesus met people on the street, he held their faces in his hands and wiped their tears with his thumbs. He ran his fingers through their hair like a mother does for her children.
A Response in the Midst of Tragedy
It’s clear here that the Lord’s response to the pain of his people is to walk amongst them, to dwell with them, to enter into their hurt with them. Is this not Christ’s response when he witnessed the pain left in the wake of Lazarus’ death? Jesus walked with them and wept with them, being fully aware of the healing and resurrection that would come in just a few moments, but also fully present and attentive to the heartache of his people. He does this consistently. He is in the midst of the pain over and over and over again, always present with mourners and those grieving, and his heart is always moved by our heartache.
I prayed through that beautiful image later that night and I heard Jesus say, “I am the best one to hug, to hold, to listen to, and to intercede for my people.”
Sometimes, dear friends, our response in the wake of unimaginable tragedy and loss is to sit with those who mourn, be quiet, and mourn with them. Our Jehovah Rapha will do the healing, the holding, the speaking. On a personal level, that translates to me staying right where I am and grieving from afar, sitting in quiet solidarity, trusting that Jesus is walking around Orlando, wrapping her up in his healing presence.
I believe he is good, and that he is walking Central Florida leaving no place and no person untouched, truly making the city beautiful.
To the City Beautiful, I hear Jesus say to you:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion — to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”