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Six people are dead in Wisconsin, dead because they were at the Sikh temple early that day, and motives are still unclear, but oh, my heart, may we, as the people of Jesus, be mourning alongside.

I read this article after the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin. The reporter quoted a victim’s family member at the scene of the horror, he said that when he heard the news, “it was like the heart just sat down.” This shooting, coming so soon on the heels of another American shooting in Colorado, and the one before that and the one before that, and what is there to say but I’m so so so sorry. God. God.

I first became acquainted with the Sikh faith when I was 16. I covered my long red hair with a wide headscarf, went to a temple. It was a field trip for World Religions, and we arrived, teenage-obnoxious, a list of likely-ignorant questions scribbled. I left my Docs at the door for the women, rejoined the boys. After the tour, we quietly observed a service, then we went to a separate room to gather in a circle, sitting criss-cross-applesauce on the soft carpeting around our welcoming host. We asked questions about his faith, about how it “felt” to be Sikh in Canada (he laughed), about their history, about family dynamics, the differences between Sikhism and Christianity, what they believed and practiced and what was with the little knives. Nearly twenty years later, I remember our tall host, he was so gentle and wise, so kind to this group of evangelical kids from Calgary, he blessed us in our ignorance. My friend snapped a picture of me standing there in the parking lot on our way out, we wanted to remember how we looked in the head coverings, I was grinning wide at the novelty. I scribbled a few notes down: The Five K’s, the Five Thieves, something something something, truth, justice, karma, equality, peace, a few doodles on the margins.

Now, we live in a community that is home to the first Sikh temple in Canada more than 100 years ago, the Gur Sikh Temple on South Fraser Way, and more than a third of my town is South Asian. My husband’s hard-working and generous clients invite him over for tandoori, our tinies dance to Bhangra music at the insurance agency customer appreciation days. The democracy of public school and soccer practice and work blends us all in together, and here, you’re as likely to see a Nishan Sahib decal as a Christian fish, on the back of the minivans at the mall. There is ignorance here, too, racism and exclusivity, no doubt, but we live together somehow.

When my eldest daughter was two, she thought the Indian ladies shopping beside us at the Superstore were real-live-princesses, she followed their bright sunset orange saris and gauzy scarves covering long ropes of black hair, and they chuckled kindly at her obvious wonder over their beauty. We nod hello to each other, the picnic tables of men in turbans at the park, they’re solving the world’s problems apparently. On Saturday nights, our chain restaurants on the west side play Hockey Night in Canada on one TV, the Punjabi feed for the same hockey game is on the other, men in turbans and dark beards calling the plays on the ice. On Canada Day, we danced to Dehli 2 Dublin at the exhibition grounds, the fireworks banging into the night sky, to the strains of Celtic-Punjabi-fusion. I admit it: I guard the location of my favourite hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant like a treasure, lest it become popular with the hipsters.

Hard conversations are coming, perhaps legislation, around gun control, about hatred, racism, religion, about our culture’s glorification of violence, our nationalism, and the divisions between us, yes, those conversations need to happen, but not just now: now is the time for grieving, now is the time for loving, for burying, for mourning with those who mourn, for gathering humanity together, and for compassion.

I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down, mourning with those that mourn, grieving and honouring, loving and praying. Love casts out fear, and may the mouths of the faithful be filled with words of Love and hope and peace, never fear.

So yes, my heart is sitting down, my friends, my neighbours, we are all with you, too, we’ll bear witness and stand with you.

My heart will sit down with your own heart, I’ll light my candle and say my common prayers for your grieving and your wounded, for us all. And then we will rise up again.

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  1. In hearing the news, my heart sat down and sank down and I, too, wanted to just cry over this. O, Lord, please let there be no more ‘us’ and ‘them.’

    Your words wove Peace.

    PS: ahem-ahem … about that hole-in-the-wall? 😉

  2. Beautifully written. I also identified with his words. They seem such an honest and heartwrenching reaction to this tragedy.

  3. Thank you so much for being with this community, whether it means your heart needs to sit or you need to rise with them as they emerge from their mourning. Thanks for representing Christ’s love to them so masterfully.

    Great post, Sarah!

  4. I love the imagery of our hearts sitting down. It reminds me of the book of Job. Before Job’s friends got caught up in all the theologizing and problem solving, they did the real work of friends- they sat down with him in the ashes. For days. Not trying to fix. Not pretending they could help. Just sitting next to him in his grief. We so rarely do that these days: the hard and important work of sitting and grieving before we speak our minds.

    Thank you or this important call be present and sit.

  5. Beautiful.

  6. So lovely and wise, Sarah. Thank you, thank you.

  7. Thank you, Sarah. Thank you.

  8. Michael Moore

    Amen, dear sister… when I heard the news, my heart sank… so much hatred in this world… so much evil and bigotry and ignorance (they are one in the same)… your words share hope in the midst of tragedy and a common cry to our Creator for peace and healing… thank you!

  9. Melissa

    Amen and amen. God weeps and so do we.

  10. I live just miles from where this all took place, and I love the image of the heart sitting down, for mine just broke for these beautiful people created in the image of Almighty God. May we love first and always, for Love covers a multitude of sins and only Love can heal and redeem the broken-hearted. Thank you, thank you for these words, words like a cup of cool water for parched and thirsty and heart-weary souls.

  11. God it’s all too much.

  12. You are a wise woman Sarah. Thank you for speaking love and peace and healing with your words.

  13. Grateful for this response. Too often there’s pressure to make a righteous fury when my heart just *can’t.* And isn’t this what Jesus did so often? His heart sat down, and he was just right there *with* people.

  14. “The democracy of public school and soccer practice and work blends us all in together, and here, you’re as likely to see a Nishan Sahib decal as a Christian fish, on the back of the minivans at the mall.”

    So true…it’s much harder to make someone your enemy when lifestyles/cultures intermingle frequently.

    Beautifully written article, Sarah, and point well made. Praying for all involved.

  15. “I believe that it is precisely because of my Christian faith that I am sitting my heart down…” Amen, Sarah. Thank you for bringing what is real and true to the surface of what so easily becomes just another upsetting news story.

  16. Agnes

    I remember, being a young Canadian girl aged around 9 or 10 living in a small town, going alone with my best friend to knock on the door of the Sikh temple at the end of her street. They asked us to take off our shoes, gave us cloths for our heads, and left us to roam around freely, exploring without hindrance. They were gentle and kind to us. So, so sad that this has happened to their community.

  17. The Sikh people are my people. Punjabi is my language, my culture, my food, my inheritance. And although as an adult I worship in a different kind of temple to the God who reveals Himself as Jesus, I hear His Father heart sitting down, too.

    Thank you for celebrating these, my, people, and reminding us all of a deeper humanity at stake here.


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