We’ve lived in the Orlando area for almost exactly four years now. Though my wife, Tammy, and I are from the northern states of Wisconsin and Illinois we have willingly and lovingly adopted Orlando as our home. We love it for the weather, its beautiful lakes and parks, Disney and Sea World, the restaurants, places like Winter Park and Mills 50, and especially the people.
I know full well that Florida gets a bad rap because of the crazy news stories that seem to flow out of our state. But the news story that came out of our city in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, could have happened anywhere. As the day wore on we were more and more horrified by the reckless disregard for human life, by the stories that were released, and by the sheer numbers of those who had lost their lives.
We prayed in church even before we knew the entire impact.
Orlando’s nickname is “The City Beautiful.” And it most certainly is for a myriad of reasons. But today Orlando bleeds with the blood of too many victims. The City Beautiful has been marred by terror. We thought things like this only happened in Paris or London.
Now it has come home. As one Law Enforcement officer said, “This is not an attack on our city. It is an attack on America.”
We know far too many people who could have been at that night club. We’ve got friends in the Orlando theatre community, we have gay friends in the service industry, we have a close friend who is a pastor and does ministry in the LGBT community of Orlando.
Beauty turned to the horrible ugliness of death in the dark hours of a Sunday morning.
But here’s why Orlando is still The City Beautiful:
- When there was an urgent call for blood donation, people lined up hundreds deep in the Florida heat to freely give that precious commodity
- Counseling centers opened immediately to help people deal with grief and fear
- Churches all over town scheduled vigils to pray for peace and for the families and friends of the victims
- Orlando is a part of the United States of America and Americans are resilient, brave, and resolute
I love my city.
So does my Savior.
He poured out His own blood for it.
It is my hope and prayer that this event will do nothing other than draw people closer to Jesus. That they will know Him as Savior. That they will know the most beautiful thing of all: Jesus’ love, forgiveness, peace, hope, life, and salvation all made possible by His own life, death, and resurrection.
For we all hope and long for The City Beautiful that is to come. As St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until the rest in Thee.”
Orlando is The City Beautiful.
And it is my home.
When the wound “heals” from all of this there will always be a scar on The City Beautiful.
But beauty will rise from the ashes and our city will rise up, stronger than ever.