Maybe You Are The Answer

Maybe You Are The Answer

In times like these, we must not forget the power in speaking up.
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Last week, I went up to Virginia to visit some friends and they took me to see a Civil War battlefield, a place where an estimated 550 men died. As we looked out upon the wide open field, my friend and I discussed why people kill each other all in the name of whatever they think is worth taking the life of another human being. I gazed out into the field and speculated that perhaps we value our ideals over other humans because we are stunted by the filter of our own bias, so much that we are all incapable of imagining others complexly. He agreed and then added that war seemed foolish, to fight over just land or any other thing that people value over human life.

And then I returned home and turned on the news. I had been gone all day and hadn't seen the news earlier about the terrorist attack in Bangladesh, and now more recently, Baghdad.

I don't know how I feel anymore. Or even how to feel. I have been really numb feeling ever since the Paris attacks last November. After that, each attack just seems like another stats for the history books. And I know that is awful to admit, but I have forgotten how to mourn. 'Cause really, how does one mourn for so many? I think maybe the Paris attacks hit me so hard because I was watching the story as it was unfolding. It was people, not just stats. Before I had seen the news, I was watching an episode of the show "heroes Reborn," in which a very similar situation was unfolding. And after the episode was over, I was at that point barely watching. Then my sister switched over to live television where the Paris attacks were unfolding and it looked so much like that TV episode, that I was confused. Right when I was about to tell my sister that she could stop the episode, and that it had finished, I realized that it wasn't a show. People were right at that very moment being massacred.

Then the death toll kept on rising, stories were being told, gruesome pictures shared and I guess I just broke. And ever since that day I have been trying to understand how people could do that to other people and maybe if I knew, I could move on and adequately mourn, but I can't. The dead will always outnumber the living and that is something I guess I must learn to live with until I become just another statistic.

Elie Wiesel once said,

"It is we who decide whether words are to be carriers of hate or vehicles of compassion, whether they become spears or peace offerings, whether they will move us to despair or to hope. I belong to a generation that has learned that whatever the question, despair is not the answer. What is the answer? Maybe you are the answer."

And this brings me to the realization that perhaps we cannot ever properly mourn for so many. Maybe an adequate amount of despair will never make up for the lives continually lost. And I have hope because I have words and I have to believe that they are stronger than guns, stronger than hate and stronger than fear.

And maybe the best thing we all can do is to remember that our words hold power, and that the way to stop hatred and fear lies in my observations about how we must learn to see others a complex human beings.

All I have ever had are my words and maybe I just need to start believing that my words will always be more than enough.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.
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Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school.

I'll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted.

Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I'm 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?"

A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?", I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week." I let it roll off of my back, I've spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back"… but I think it's time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister.

She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn't have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her.

I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn't though. I didn't let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization.

Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn't directed to what we, in today's society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one's self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 'You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 'Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 'You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 'Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so.

This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God's creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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The Pulse Affect

Where do we stand 2 years later?

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It's been 2 years since the infamous Pulse shooting and everyone, including myself, is still affected. I remember so clearly how I was too scared to go to any pride events afterward. I knew that's what the shooter wanted, was for us all to retreat back into the closest we so bravely came out of, but still, I couldn't bring myself to leave the bed.

The news had hit me harder than any of the previous shooting. While it was still a mass shooting such as what was happening at the schools, the target was more specific. He went in there with the mind of not just killing people, but people associated with the LGBT community. The scene was so horrible, that some of the first responders have even mentioned having PTSD still from the scene.

The news had sunk everyone's heart and many flocked to social media just to find out if friends were there or not. The toll was 49 innocent people who had lost their lives to a despicable individual I refuse to name. I feel he received too much attention in the media as it was.

It also didn't take long for the focus to switch from the victims to the "how could we prevent this"—which isn't a bad question, but the two sides who seemed to differ on opinions so much just turned it into yet another screaming match. That being said, those who weren't on the extreme end of it found themselves seeking comfort from each other. For many people, this attack did scare them, but I think within the horrifying event came a new sense of community.

For those who had family or friends that were victims of such an attack, my heart goes out to you. The mourning doesn't stop, and while I know there are no words that can be strung together to bring closure, I can show my support and continue to fight for equality and help educate whoever I can. The tragedy isn't something I wish on anyone, and the wound stills fresh to me despite not having any personal connections to anyone.

To end this story on a hopeful note, today people are doing positive things in honor of the victims of the pulse attack. One article writes about a couple who spends their time cleaning up the area of litter and mentions others donating money, objects, or their own time in hopes to help anyone in need. One direct quote from this article is "Last year, more than 2,500 people volunteered their time in support of Acts of Love and Kindness, and while there was no official tally yet for this year's outpouring, it seems likely that many will go uncounted."

I encourage people today to reach out to one another, no matter orientation or identity. Love one another and don't let things strip others of their human qualities. We are all human and have the ability to do good. The shooting was tragic, but we should not let it keep us from celebrating who we are and embracing each other with open arms. Don't let the worlds hate scare you or stifle your creativity. We will not let anyone push us back into the dark, no better their best effort. Live on and keep your heart open to love.

Cover Image Credit:


https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-gathered-near-building-holding-flag-at-daytime-919194/

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