Ashton RayComment

June 13

Ashton RayComment
June 13

The past few days have been too heavy. They’ve been wrecked with bad news and sad stories. They’ve left our country and my friends questioning and praying and hurting. I am 4,000 miles away from the States and while all the tragedy has taken place over there, the pain is not any less on this side of the Atlantic. My heart hurts. But I know that there are thousands of people who hurt more than I do. And I don’t like it at all.

            Saturday, a Jesus-loving woman died while signing autographs. I had never heard of her, but her name quickly became a common denominator on social media posts. Some man decided that Christina Grimmie needed to die, so he drove over two hours to make that happen. He shot her, her brother tackled him, and he shot himself. The man was ill, he was lost, and he caused the first piece of pain that Orlando, that America, felt this weekend. But it wasn’t the last.

            I checked social media Sunday morning (which in the States, specifically Orlando, is six hours behind our time). I quickly learned of what had happened, but not even the world knew of the severity of it yet. Throughout the morning, we all learned more. We learned numbers. We learned details about the settle. And we entered an intense grieving as our country bared the shock of it’s worst shooting yet.

            I need to admit that I was numb at first. “It’s just another shooting,” I thought. This keeps happening. Strangers keep dying. Numbers keep filling headlines. And no matter what I feel in the moment, my life is never affected. My pragmatic brain, at times, is my faith’s worst enemy. It is always the antagonist to my emotions. This time, though, logic did not win.

            On the floor of a tiny apartment in an unfamiliar Spanish city, my friends and I gathered around to watch what our president had to say. We sat in silence with straight faces and heavy hearts, just listening. We clung to his words, all homesick for hope. We watched as Mr. President beckoned our country into grieving and ordered us all to pray. We did not hesitate.

            Hardly moving, we shifted in our silence. “Can we pray?” Ben’s words were less of a question and more of a ushering into what needed to be. He prayed. Sarah prayed. I prayed. Bella prayed. Tania prayed. Carolina prayed. We asked and pleased for grace. We prayed for the families—both of those who lost their loved ones and the family of the shooter. I prayed that Jesus would stop anyone who attempted to celebrate a massacre of LGBT community members.

We asked for more grace. We pleaded that Jesus would make His name known in this dark situation. My heart processed His power. We took deep breaths, attempting to feel and trust. Attempting to believe that our God’s power is stronger than evil. Believing He can bring good out of the Pulse shooting. I am still trying. We said a unified amen two days ago, but I haven’t stopped praying.

I have lived through seven of America’s most deadly shootings. And I hate that the news is getting easier to hear—just like the weather. But I love that I am growing into a woman that can lean into the tragedy that our country faces. This pain, this national grief and fury and sadness that our country is swimming in made me want to go home. But I didn’t. I was in Santander when I learned the news and rather than going home, I returned to Salamanca. Five hours on a bus and one text that added the bookend to the weekend’s tragedy.

I haven’t thought about Dakota Byrd for more than thirty seconds since I graduated high school. Why would I? He was one of the punks. He didn’t take himself or school or anyone else seriously. He and his twin brother were voted, “Most Likely to: Be on America’s Most Wanted.” He made me laugh sometimes, just like all punks do. He and his brother, Dallas, were tweedle-dumb and tweedle-dee. My self-righteousness was too strong for me to love him well. Honestly, I don’t know if he would have recognized me if he saw me last week. It’s important for me to admit that I probably wouldn’t have said hello to him even if he did. Life is funny, and tragic, like that.

Now, though, I won’t have that chance. Dakota Byrd is dead. He was member of the GSHS class of 2013 just as much as I am; now he is dead. And his death, his suicide, has shaken me more than I’d like it to.

According to my sources, he was depressed. And he gave into the pain and darkness and the gray and he took his life. I don’t know how he did it and I don’t want to. Suicide it too close for me, it’s too real. So many humans will say, “I don’t know how he could do that.” And for me to say that would be a lie. I get it. I understand that darkness that he followed too far. And I wish I could have told him that there was another way out. I wish I could have seen him on the street last week, said hello, and spoken to him about hope. But I didn’t. And I never will. I hate that he is dead. Screw depression.

I’ve had to pray for a lot in the past three days. Christian Grimmie. Orlando. LGBT members. Dallas Byrd. GSHS. My own heart. Life has been so heavy, but Jesus is still good. I have to keep saying that: He has won. He has beaten this. Tetelestai. He paid for all of this: for the shooters and the suicides and the terrorists. He loves them just as He loves me. He is grieving with us all. He is pouring His love out. And no matter the darkness, His goodness is not shaken. Not a tear shed will be missed by the Maker of us all. These days are not too heavy for Him. He will carry us.