Deadly fires, a mass shooting, hurricanes and more -- I still believe love can heal our nation

The news of Las Vegas came in as fast and as devastating as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and as violent as the raging fires tearing through California. I could imagine the sudden horror of the thousands of men, women, and children dancing and singing one minute, and then scrambling for their lives before the next downbeat. It must have felt like a roof ripping off and leaving thousands of people traumatized in its wake. My husband and son, Marcus and Levi Hummon, are both in the music industry and have lots of friends who were in Las Vegas, so our communities have felt this mass shooting rip apart our own sense of security.

I have felt both grief and anger on behalf of the victims and their families. I can understand how people might wonder why God would allow such a horrific thing to happen to innocent people but God didn't do this, God is grieving with us. This is a time to question a lot of things, but I believe that this is not a time to question our faith. This is a time to lean into our faith, as our faith is what carries us through. This is a time for remembering all we have lost through violence and injustice and to be a community. Community is the common thread, woven by the fiber of love, that binds us together. And I know something about love: Love heals. It heals people, and it will heal our nation, too.

At Thistle Farms, a community of survivors of prostitution, addiction, and trafficking, where I have worked for the past 20 years, one sentiment remains constant; hearts expand as they heal. For women recovering from childhood trauma and sexual violence, the painful edges of their hearts discover new depths of compassion along the path of healing. America, too, can grow both stronger in the pain and more radically passionate for loving one another. Once we all allow healing to smooth over rough edges in our own hearts, it will push the boundaries of love a little further for all of us.

We can transform brokenness into compassion, anger into advocacy, and fear into courage. On a daily basis, I see the survivors in our community being transformed by love. Healing is beautifully simple and surprisingly accessible.

If you are wondering what you can do to find some peace and healing in your own life, I encourage you to:

  • Make time for quiet reflection: Find a green pasture, sit on a pew, stretch out on an exercise mat, soak in a bathtub—go anywhere that is your quiet space so that you can get still. Sip tea, light a candle, go silent. 
  • Pray: Everyone defines this differently. You can pray out loud, on paper, or before bed. If we desire healing, we journey inward, reflect, face the pain, and find new spaces in our hearts to love each other.
  • Give generously: This can be your time, money or talents. We refuel our spirits by helping another person or contributing to the greater good. Volunteer.
  • Take a break from social media: Social media contains negative stories, unkind words, judgment, comparison, and unrealistic standards in the news feed. Use the time you would have spent on social media to help create good news. Nurture the relationships in your life that don’t rely on a screen. 

With every action, we can become more peaceful, more loving, and more compassionate towards ourselves and others. This is what makes healing a journey; In the small steps we make daily, we find, looking back, that we have made a big difference along the way.  

While I don’t know why we have faced a relentless amount of tragedy across our country this past year, what I do know is that love will be stronger and will last longer. In grieving, hearts can grow stronger, and in pain, there is comfort. What I know is healing, in the face of violence and senseless acts, will always find a way. Peace and love to you.   

Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, priest, social entrepreneur, and founder and president of Thistle Farms, the largest social enterprise in the U.S. run by survivors of prostitution, addiction, and trafficking in Nashville, Tennessee. Her latest book is "Love Heals" (Thomas Nelson, September 2017). Follow her on twitter @RevBeccaStevens.