What has not been said about mass shootings and the toll they take on children?

What fresh, new perspective will convince lawmakers on both sides of the hell that exist here in America?

I am tired of leaving a courteous voicemail to my representatives telling them that I demand action.

I am tired of the bated breath I endure each time a push notification pops up about another shooting as I comb through my mind’s eye of friends and family desperately trying to make sure I don’t know anyone in that state, or that city or that neighborhood.

I’m tired of tearing up and crying each time I imagine my niece trying to run in a way that isn’t filled with delight. I am tired of trying to imagine my sister-in-law or cousin, or tia trying to barricade their classrooms.

And I am tired of feeling ashamed when I am relieved amidst the tragedy that at least this time it was not one of mine.

I am tired of praying the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday, droning on about a kingdom come, a divine will to be done, when, in reality, we continuously choose to bring forth a fresh hell instead.

I do not believe in hell. I do not believe in a place of fire and brimstone that sits beneath the earth’s core where Satan and fallen angels wait to torture non-believers whose names are not written in the book of life.

And the less I believe hell exists, the more I believe that heaven might not exist as well.

But that does not make me less hopeful in a kin-dom come. This does not mean the race we run is in vain, but maybe it offers an invitation to reimagine our place in the cycle of kin-dom bearing.

Maybe our Hindu siblings have something to teach us about the cycle of life and reincarnation and the manner in which we leave and return.

Do we not, every Ash Wednesday, remind one another that we are dust and to dust we shall return? What if it is like that — each time, for each of us, another opportunity to bear the kin-dom of God onto this earth in all manner of ways?

At least this is what I am clinging to right now in these gut-wrenching days as we, yet again, face the numbing truth that our country cares more about a right to bear arms than it does about the life of people created in a divine image.

There is a quote from Phillip Pullman’s book The Amber Spyglass about love:

“I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again. … I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart.

“Every atom of me and every atom of you. … We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams. … And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight.”

This quote is one Nick and I will have read at our wedding. It ecompasses our love and commitment. But on Wednesday night, it came to mind as I thought about what justice looks like in the coming days.

While I thought about the parents in Uvalde wailing and calling out for mijo and mija one last time in hopes a child would answer, I wondered if perhaps kin-dom come is atoms coming back into this life and clinging to us – in the air we breath, in the bird that makes a mess at our bird feeders, in the fresh baked bread we buy for dinner or communion or, as Pullman mentions, in the little specks of light we see floating in sunbeams.

Particles attached to us in ways we can’t really see, moving and begging us to do something in the name of a love so profound it becomes a part of our own atoms making us kin. Is this the kin-dom of heaven?

A chance to bring forth not only the names of those who have died by the hands of violence, but also to live out their memory within ourselves? This is part of what justice must look like.

These children and teachers cannot only be a photo or a name etched on a gravestone. The work of bringing forth a kin-dom must also be recreating a reality that does not bring forth hell, but specks of light that clears out the darkness of evil.

I do not believe in an afterlife because I want to believe there is no after, just now and now and now.

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