Prayer in the aftermath of tragedy at the South By Southwest festival
A Christian Science perspective.
The month of March in Austin, Texas, guarantees two events: South By Southwest – a continually growing international festival for film, music, and interactive media – and bluebonnets. The weather is changeable and unpredictable, but bluebonnets and South By Southwest are reliable signs that spring is here in central Texas.
Things had been well under way at the festival for about a week, and Wednesday night’s music activities continued into Thursday’s early hours. During the revelry, a suspected drunken driver sped into a crowd, killing two people and injuring 23 others. I awoke to the news and a call to join in prayer from other spiritual thinkers living here or attending the festival. After my initial surprise and horror, I felt great compassion for all involved. That loving thought led to an openness to God’s guidance on how to pray further and to be a force for peace and healing, rather than rubbernecking the scene mentally from my chair.
I knew I couldn’t erase that awful moment from those innocent people’s lives nor excuse the driver’s recklessness, but I could focus my thought away from the horror and stay directed toward what would be most loving and healing.
As I drove to my office Thursday morning, I was reflecting on how to pray and how to proceed with my day. Just as the thoughts of the frightening scene attempted to crowd and cloud my thought, I looked to the side of the road, and there was my first sighting of this year’s Texas bluebonnets. There they were, brightening the highway, oblivious to my inner turmoil or even to the rush of cars going by. Every year, these iconic blue flowers burst with color and life. And no matter how often I see these flowers in Texas photography and art, I am always delighted to view them in person when they come out to greet the central Texas spring.
It got me thinking about these words from that ultimate example of wisdom and compassion, Christ Jesus: “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to-day in the field, and to-morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Luke 12:27, 28).
If those lilies – and bluebonnets – could continue to grow and flourish, bloom and be beautiful, demonstrate life, renewed each year, then certainly God could care for each one of those affected by this tragedy. I reasoned that each idea of God, each child of His, is tenderly cared for, cherished, loved. In fact, the police and first responders were immediate evidence of that care in action.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded The Christian Science Monitor, recognized that difficult experiences, no matter how dark they appear, could never stop or hide the renewing power of God, whom she knew to be Life and Love. In her textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she reminds the reader that those challenging times, those “valleys” of human experience, are also occasions for fresh inspiration and new life to be seen, even more radiant and bright amid the gloom. She wrote: “Though the way is dark in mortal sense, divine Life and Love illumine it, destroy the unrest of mortal thought, the fear of death, and the supposed reality of error. Christian Science, contradicting sense, maketh the valley to bud and blossom as the rose” (p. 596).
As the festival continues today and into the weekend, I know that no random act can stop beauty and goodness from reappearing here in Austin and everywhere else, just like those faithful bluebonnets, ready to blossom and bless.
Adapted from a blog on christianscienceaustin.com.