Yesterday I was in WalMart with the kids. We were looking at beach towels. Adelade wanted to buy one, but I was trying to put her off for a few weeks because I knew that I had a huge grocery list inside my purse and a budget to keep. Sawyer and Emerald were chatting about the different floaties that they want to try out this summer. Suddenly, I heard a commotion on the next aisle. Yelling. A scuffle.
I froze, staring at Adelade wide-eyed while Sawyer and Emerald continued talking, oblivious. I was literally waiting for the gunshots to start. In those few seconds, my body was tense, poised to move into some type of retreat to get my kids away from the danger, knowing that it might be impossible.
It was probably only fifteen seconds before I realized that the sounds I heard were teenagers racing to finish some type of scavenger hunt inside WalMart. Adelade was watching me, waiting to judge whether she should be afraid by how I handled it. I laughed. Those are happy sounds, I said, and she smiled, looking relieved.
But, I didn’t stop shaking for the next fifteen minutes.
This world is a frightening place. The climate of our country feels unstable. So much misunderstanding, so much hate, so much ignorance, so much hopelessness. Hearts are heavy. Burdens are crushing.
America is sad.
We finished our shopping, and as I rounded each aisle of the store I looked into the faces of my fellow human beings. The kids happily played and made up stories and told jokes while I worked my way through my grocery list, and I noticed how often people stopped to smile a little wistfully, watching them. Several met my gaze, nodding knowingly, and I could feel the weight they carried on their shoulders, just humans in a grocery store on a Tuesday night, longing for the days when they were carefree like my little ones, oblivious to the great troubles of the world.
We stood in line for a few minutes before a man whose tattoos showed up black and meaningful against his blue WalMart shirt came and offered to let us check out at a different register. I wondered at the stories behind the harsh-looking drawings on his arms.
He was taken with Emerald. She smiled at him so big that her eyes crinkled into little slivers. He chatted with her about her day, and she told him about the floaties on aisle six, where just an hour earlier I had frozen in fear. He laughed as she waved her hands in the air while she told him all about it. When we walked away, he called her his buddy, and she never stopped smiling at him as if they were friends from way back.
We walked out of the store into a west Texas sunset, and after I loaded all the groceries and kids into the car, I rolled down every window so we could feel the wind in our faces as we drove away. I thought about how heavy we all seem these days. About how crippling it is to live in fear. To live in sin. To live under the great, crushing burden of the pains of life in a fallen world.
Here is the truth as plain as I can say it.
This world is hopeless. It is incurably desperate. There is no man-made fix for it. For us. The burdens we carry will crush us forever. No government program, no awareness campaign, no amount of money, no amount of desire, no amount of gun control or guns in every pocket will change anything. There’s only one answer to the problem of the human heart: Jesus Christ. He is the only source of hope. He’s the only cure for the violence, for the hatred, for the dread, for the darkness. He’s the only way to know that when you’re frozen in fear in aisle six, no matter what happens, everything is going to be okay.
On the drive home, I watched in the rear-view mirror as the kids’ hair blew wildly around their freckled cheeks. They tried to sing with songs on the radio, but they could hardly get the lyrics out for giggling about the gusts of highway air in their faces. I prayed that I’ll be able to remember this little summertime moment years down the road. And I prayed that they will all learn well as they grow up in this heavy world that Jesus was right when He said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. This world hurts. But, Jesus is relief. And, He is the answer to everything.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28