I feel that this is a belated response to the school shooting, massacre would be a better term, on Friday, but I’ve really struggled wrapping my mind around it. I wasn’t even aware that it happened until several hours later because not only am I in an earlier time zone, I usually don’t get connected to the outside world until a few hours after getting up when I finally wake up my cell phone. That is how Friday went and when I woke up my cell phone and checked facebook I started seeing several posts about a school shooting. So I turned on the news and was horrified. Truly horrified. It is so hard to imagine what the teachers, staff, and students of Sandy Hook endured, and when I do let my mind imagine it, my eyes well up with tears. When I think about the lives lost, I get angry. When I think about how broken/alone/lost a person has to be in order to do such a thing I can’t even imagine that kind of brokenness. And now, knowing the names and seeing the faces of the victims, feels like holding something very sacred and I pray that we honor and respect that.
Several aspects of this massacre have been discussed and debated and they will continue to be. There is talk about guns. There is talk about mental illness. There is talk about who could do such a thing. There is talk about parenting. There is talk about where God is or isn’t. There is talk about prayer in school. There is talk about violence. The list could go on. All of this talk is necessary, as hard as it might be and as grounded as some of us are in what we believe. Now is a time to be open to discussion. Well, really, it’s always been the time to be open for discussion but we are rarely willing until something terrible happens. I don’t really want to address these particular issues here, though, although I might get off course a bit. There are two things that feel like big elephants in the room and nobody is really addressing them head on. I pray that I am able to tread lightly here because I do not want to cause any harm and I hope that those who read this will understand that.
First, I want to talk about God. If God is so powerful and all knowing, then why did God let this happen? Why? Why? Why? I’ll be honest. I don’t know. I have felt more confident in my response with other tragedies…when so many helpless children weren’t involved. (See…here come the tears again.) Here is what I believe. When God created, God proclaimed that it was ‘good’ not perfect. Humans are part of God’s good creation. God has given us free will to act on our own. Evil exists and humans are susceptible to evil. So evil caused this horrific event, not God. (Gap). God is present everywhere and God’s presence was evident at Sandy Hook in the heroism of the teacher’s and staff and students. (Gap). God is truly weeping with us. (Gap). God did not call on those victims to die that day, but God was waiting for them with open arms just as God waits for all of us. Do you feel the gaps? Sometimes don’t you just want God to be God’s own presence and stop it rather than relying on imperfect humans to do their best? Theologically, the only place I can go is back to free will. If I want God to dictate in some situations then I need to allow God to dictate in all situations. But God did not create us to be puppets. That was not the purpose of Creation. God let go of humanity, much like parents must let their children go from under their wings (never their hearts mind you!!!) so that the children can be free to live their own life…with their own choices…and, unfortunately, their own consequences. I also believe that there is a continuum of belief from unbelief to doubt and all the way to certainty, and we are all somewhere on that continuum, most likely fluctuating along it. Now is a time when I have to say I believe, but Lord help my unbelief.
Secondly, I want to talk about life. In church on Sunday, 26 candles were lit for the victims. It was very beautiful and from our silence we started singing Silent Night, and many were brought to tears. It was very moving and appropriate, I felt. But I also felt something else. I felt like there should have been more candles. I wondered why there wasn’t a 27th candle for the mother who was shot in her head. Okay, maybe we were just focusing on the school itself. But really, a mother being shot by her son is also a tragedy. And I wondered (and this is the really hard one so please take a deep breath) why there wasn’t a 28th candle for the young man who caused this tragedy. I do not in any way want to honor or glorify what he did, absolutely not. His actions were horrific. And I don’t even want to call him a victim of anything, his circumstances, his condition if he had one, nothing. There’s just a hole right there where that 28th candle should be. I want a candle because his life mattered to God. Yes, he went astray, but we are taught that God seeks those who are lost. I believe that God wept when this young man went astray and that God wanted him to be found. And more than anything, I wanted that 28th candle lit because we never know who this young man might be. I wanted it lit to remind us to seek out the brokenhearted and let them know that their life has value!