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Monday, December 17, 2012

His Hand is Stretched out still

We don't watch a lot of TV, especially not during the day. Last Friday I didn't hear about the awful events in Newtown, CT until a little later in the day. It was disturbing news... even before finding out that it all took place at an elementary school. That just took it to a whole new level. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief, so much that by early afternoon I had a headache and a stomach that wouldn't settle.

That afternoon, in a bit of a daze, I watched my boys making messes and doing things in general that usually drive me crazy (unrolling a whole roll of paper towels, fighting over toys, etc...) and I actually found myself feeling grateful that I had them there with me, alive and well enough to be making those messes.

When it quieted down for nap time, I took some time with each of them to cup their faces in my hands, looking into their eyes and told them that I loved them. Hugh looked back at me with big eyes, almost as if he sensed the intensity of the moment. I honestly felt a little relief that they are too young to go into any detail with them about what happened. It makes me a little sad to think that one day there will be some other awful story in the news and I'll probably have to then. I just hope a horror like that isn't ever anything any of us will have to experience first-hand.

I tried to put myself in the shoes of a six-year old child in that kind of situation or in the shoes of a mother who has to hear her child is gone, taken in such an evil way. But, it was all too unsettling and I just couldn't go there.

In the process of trying to come to terms with my own feelings about the tragic details, I came across a lot of quotes and images on facebook that people wanted to share. One that came up a number of times was the quote by Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”

I appreciated hearing such wise words from a wise man. There was another sentiment that came up that, on the surface, seemed like a good explanation, but deep down made me feel uncomfortable. This idea that the shooting happened in Newtown because we've pushed God out of our schools and so He's abandoned us.

I'm still sorting through my feelings on the matter, so bear with me. While God doesn't force His will or His love on us, I feel very certain that He has much "thicker skin" than us emotionally fragile humans. We can push Him away over and over and cut Him off completely, but as was often quoted by Isaiah, even at our very worst, "His hand is stretched out still." I can't imagine that God, a loving Father in Heaven, would withhold His comfort and presence from a school full of young children, HIS young children, just because there was some person somewhere that said there shouldn't be prayer in school.

What about the shooting that happened at the Amish school a few years back? They likely had prayer to start their day. Or, what about shootings that happen inside churches or other places of worship? In those cases, the logic of that sentiment totally falls apart.

The truth is that sometimes we pray for things and sometimes those prayers are answered and sometimes they're not. Sometimes God sees fit to intervene and provide protection and sometimes He doesn't. It can feel futile to try to make sense of why He does or doesn't do something, but it's important to remember that God sees a much clearer picture of His plan and His purposes.

It seems to me that it comes down to a matter of agency, or free will. God allows us to make choices. He can try to persuade or prompt us in a certain direction, but He will never force us to be good or to follow His commandments. That means that sometimes evil things happen. Does that make God less powerful or less available to the innocent who suffer at the hands of evil? No way.

In fact, if there were some way we could get a glimpse of Sandy Hook in the moments before, during, and after the shooting occurred, and if it were possible to see the tragedy with spiritual eyes, I wonder what we would see. I imagine we'd see hosts of angels, waiting and ready to comfort, to calm, to inspire, to strengthen. Just because the shooter was able to accomplish his evil act and killed so many innocent children, and equally innocent adults, doesn't mean that God was not there. Surely He was no where else but there that day, watching with the same heartache and sadness at one of His own sons using his agency to hurt so many people in an unimaginable way.

I don't know why He allowed it to happen. I don't know why He didn't intervene. But, the God I know wouldn't have been anywhere else that day. And, for those who have been left behind, I know He is there walking with them, suffering and grieving with them. He does not leave us comfortless. He seeks us out and walks with us.

It's awful what happened. It's unimaginable. I've shed tears over it.

I'd imagine God has shed more than anyone.

1 comment:

Kate said...

amen, Megan! I could not have said it better myself! God was there that day . . . His angels surrounding those souls as they were received Home to Him! I have no doubt in my mind of that!