I started a post yesterday and got a little bit into it before I gave up. Something just wasn't sitting right with me. To be honest, I've not spent a significant amount of time watching the news to hear the latest about the situation in Newtown, Connecticut. I grew up not too far from there, so it's certainly a situation that is close to my heart, but other than continually reading the names of the victims, reading more and more people wax eloquent with their political views doesn't necessarily put me in a great mood.
Things are broken and we want them to be fixed. The problem is that rather than find out how to fix them, we think that we need to somehow figure out who broke them to begin with. Do you know who broke them? We all did.
Some people within the church will say that throwing God out of the school caused this. Some, like the people from Westboro Baptist Church, think that it's because Connecticut legalized gay marriage. I honestly think that these viewpoints reflect a fairly limited view of God.
When Solomon was preparing to build the Temple of the Lord in 2 Chronicles, he said, "But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?" Do we really think that we can restrict God's access to a place just because we "forbid" prayer in schools. As I've seen it written before, as long as there are still tests in schools, there will still be prayer in schools.
While I have opinions about marriage, to think that a sad and broken individual's evil choices were caused by a state's decision to legalize gay marriage seems as ridiculous as thinking that Hurricane Katrina or the tsunami in Asia were punishments from God on evil nations. Do we really serve a God who is simply out to get everyone? Did He not send His Son, the One whose birth we celebrate during this Advent season so that people might be saved? The Bible says that He is not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. While I don't believe that everyone will come to repentance, there is a measure of rejection that is involved there, not necessarily on the part of God but on the one who rejects Him.
Every time that I heard my kids' voices yesterday, I began to cry. I cried for the families whose Christmas would be a nightmare this year. For all of the unopened presents under Christmas trees. For every empty bed that was abandoned way too early. For every parent's empty heart waiting to be filled with years and years of memories of birthdays, of graduations, of wedding days, and so many more special days. I have a hard time believing that God caused that.
Yet people will ask why God did not prevent it? A much trickier question, but a question nonetheless. My best answer is this: I don't know. Sure, you can look on Facebook and see pictures of 20 little kids running on clouds into heaven, but that doesn't really do the trick for me. I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that somehow God needed those 26 people in Heaven more than their families needed them on earth. But answers are elusive and that's not something that we as a society are accustomed to dealing with. We don't like unsolved mysteries, we don't like things to be left unresolved, we want answers and we want them fast.
Somehow, I don't really think this whole thing is about guns and stricter laws, but I am sure many will disagree with me. There's certainly something backwards in our country when the people who make the most money generally do it with sneakers, cleats, or a ball while those who make the least are the ones who are sacrificing for their time and additional income to teach the next generation. Too bad we can't find a way to tax the entertainment industry higher so that we could afford to focus some additional funding and resources into our educational system. Maybe we could somehow decrease class sizes, reduce teacher stress, provide them with additional resources, and actually let them teach something besides how to successfully pass the standardized tests that have become the educational holy grail for so many.
I can't change anyone else, but I can change me. I can influence my children. If they begin to show signs of instability, I can choose to ignore it, or I can address it and deal with it. I can turn my back on the stigma that our society has put on mental illness and choose to advocate for healthiness and wholeness. For now, that's what I will focus on, and at the same time, I will pray that the Shalom of which I read about in the Bible would surround 26 families in Connecticut, families to whom "Silent Night, Holy Night" will mean something very different this year.