My daughter jumped in the pool, pencil straight right to the bottom, then slowly let herself drift back to the surface. Her white blonde hair swirled around her like a halo, glistening in the pool light, the rest of her a silhouette against the backdrop of a dark sky.
For twenty minutes she went down and back up, floating on innocence, while I watched her from the side of the pool. I longed for her freedom.
50 people were killed early Sunday morning, and another 53 wounded. A gunman, bent on the will of evil, snuffed out the lives of 50 individuals, and as I sat on the side of the pool and watched my daughter play unhindered, my heart ached.
I ached knowing that someday she will lose that innocence. Someday, she'll sit on the side of a pool and wish she didn't know of pain and suffering. But not today.
Today she gets to be a little girl, buoyed by water, and youth, and the thrill of a late night summer swim. Today, she heard of a shooting where lots of people died, but the magnitude of the event didn't quite touch her.
Today she was little. Growing up will happen in its due time.
In the wake of yet another mass shooting, I find myself once again contemplating man's capacity for evil. I've spent the better part of the last fifteen years buried in research, wrapped in the horror of another era when terror and ideology reigned.
Writing a book based on the horrors of World War II wakes one up to man's capacity for evil. The years 1939-1945 produced some of the most horrifying crimes against humanity this world has ever seen. It's hard to fathom that man could harbor such evil within his heart.
But evil isn't new to the world, nor is a hatred so vile that it will shed innocent blood for its own selfish gain. It wasn't new in 1939, and it's not new today.
Evil has always lurked in the corners of our periphery, ever at the ready to strike. No amount of gun control, heightened security, or safety precautions can thwart the evil man bent on terror. Because it all begins in the heart, and that cannot be regulated by outside measures.
So what's our response? Do we simply sit in the corner and cower in fear? Of course not!
No. We must stand together in the face of evil, and we must condemn it, calling it out for what it is. We should be angry, livid, really. Because this wasn't just an attack on the gay community.
This was an attack on humanity. And our response to one another must be love. More love and more love and more love. This is our unified stance against those hell bent on destruction.
Last year, as I was finishing up the research for my novel, I flew to Germany, and I spent a morning walking through Dachau. There are really no words to communicate what it's like to stand inside a former concentration camp, and to hear the stories of what happened inside those walls. It's an oppression upon the soul that's hard to describe.
What struck me most, however, was the fact that people lived just outside the gates of Dachau, and most of them did nothing.
They saw prisoners marched from the trains, disappearing behind the line of trees where fires constantly burned, the smoke of the dead hanging over the city like a cloud, and they did nothing. Why?
Because they were afraid.
The Nazis targeted a specific people group. Their attack on humanity was as ideological as the attack that ISIS wages today. And they got away with it because everyone else, those on the periphery who weren't specifically targeted, was too afraid to speak up.
We cannot respond with meekness. We must stand defiantly and spit in the eye of the enemy, boldly declaring that WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED!
In times of deep tragedy, the first response by many is to pray. Immediately, upon hearing of the horror inside Pulse, the hashtag #prayfororlando began trending across the internet. Photos popped up left and right, "Pray for Orlando", and we filtered our photos with the rainbow. Why is this, and what does it really mean? After all, a hashtag and a filter are nothing more than symbols. They mean nothing in the wake of disaster and death.
The carnage in the streets is not revived by mere symbols. And yet...
Oh, but there is power to be found behind a symbol, if we're willing to follow through. Will I simply post #prayfororlando, or will I drop to my knees and pray for Orlando? Am I willing to go beyond condemning evil from the sidelines, and enter into the fight head on?
Will we cry out to God, the only One capable of defeating evil, the One who saw the wickedness inside man's heart, and offered a way for him to turn from it, and really truly believe that He has the power to heal all this brokenness? Will we call Him good even when nothing makes sense?
Do we believe in the One to whom we pray?
Dear grieving world, evil will always be ready to kill and destroy, hiding in the shadows as it waits to strike. So lets keep it there, in the shadows. Because you know what evil cannot stand?
Evil hates light - that is why it's evil. It can only exist in the dark places. But love - love is light.
So get up, world! Let not evil darken the doors of our hearts! Let not the darkness snuff out the beauty of laughter and love. Evil may look like it's winning, but it cannot claim victory because light won't be chased away. I know this for a fact.
I pulled her out of the pool and wrapped her in a towel. Her lips chattered, and she offered me a soft smile.
"That was really fun," she whispered, and I blinked back tears. Someday she'll feel the weight of this evil world because pain and suffering clearly aren't going away. Someday she will experience the burden of this, but not today.
Today she knows only of the comfort and light of love. She's the future, and so it's my job to teach her to love fully and wholly, to stand strong in the face of persecution, and to keep spreading the light.
Because evil cannot move beyond the boundaries of darkness. Evil cannot defeat the One to whom we cry out.
In the light of love, of Love, evil is defeated.