December 24, 2012

On December 14th, I wept for twenty six souls in Newtown, Connecticut. The despair I felt was a sense that we’ve lost control as a nation, abandoned universal morality for individual amorality. Have faith, hope and love, ancient words from ancient texts, devolved into hollow shells of confectionary meaninglessness? And then I remember that even those who trust in the ancient words of holy scripture find a sense of hopelessness embedded in the words of Ecclesiastes. “I saw the tears of the oppressed-and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-and they have no comforter.”  Meaninglessness is not new. But it seems so new right now because this is the season of hope and hope is more difficult to grasp in the midst of our grief.

But why the senselessness and just where was the all-powerful God I believe in by faith and not sight? I don’t know…perhaps taking a cosmic nap? Or, the Creator of the universe watches with arms folded in a state of parental disbelief? Could it be that God is wracked in grief alongside us?

One day I’ll know with perfect clarity…but here is what I believe for now.
I live in a broken world. It’s the shallower, darker, hurting world that anticipates and longs for a better one. And for now heaven overlaps earth in moments of transcendent beauty while I await the purer, holy and radiant world that is to come. Those moments of overlapping transcendence where Jesus words, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven…” have revealed themselves in high definition images. Watching my bride walk down the aisle, seeing all three of my children for the first time at birth, watching my 99 year old grandmother take her last breath on this earth. Heaven can and does touch this dusty and sometimes dark world that is fraught with random acts of violence, in moments of clear wonder and transcendent beauty. And yet outside those moments of abiding truth and beauty, doubt lives and flourishes in the grip of evil and violence.
So…where was God?

Like Elvis, it does seem that God has left the building and we exist within the confines of a moral free-for-all. And then again maybe God was and is and always will be…at least that’s what Yahweh told Moses. “I am who I am.” He told Moses to tell the Israelites that this is my name forever, the name you will call me from generation to generation. God said I have a name, I exist, I was, I am, I will be, from generation to generation.

And so I wonder. Is this the better question? “Where was I when a disturbed, broken, hurting twenty year old kid lost all control and did the unthinkable?” Indeed, where was I?  At the office working too hard for things I don’t even need. I was at the gym getting in better shape. I was surfing the internet because I had nothing else to do. I was worshipping at church oblivious to those hurting outside my church walls. I was watching television three hours a day. I wasn’t paying attention to the broken and blind and crippled and hurting…the ones I stepped over as I went about my work each day. I still don’t know the answer to, “Where was God?” I only know where I was. God forgive me…and may the Almighty grant me the wisdom to refrain from cursing the darkness and the courage to light a candle.

2 responses to “Newtown”

  1. Ah, Brent, those weren’t the only places you were. Maybe not on that day in particular, but on many other similar days through the years you were–

    raising a strong son, who made a friend of a boy whose father didn’t choose to be a part of his life. being an example to that young friend, welcoming him to your home. feeding a host of students, including that friend, in the midst of busy school days with much more than grilled cheese sandwiches. and, employing that same young man during summers when jobs for inexperienced workers were hard to come by.

    Accept whatever conviction God lays on your heart, but don’t beat yourself up too much. You have impacted the life of one who, statistically, could have been every bit as troubled as the Connecticut shooter. And that 20 year old man is far better for your influence. There is your candle, burning brightly.

    • Karen: I was just at Bible study with some other couples and talking about Brandon and his challenging semester upcoming in Germany studying Meteorology. It’s always tough letting go of your children. It’s wonderful to hear kinds words about Brandon and I know we also appreciate very much his relationship with Sean over the years. Sean’s a great kid. Thanks for your kind words. It made my day! Brent

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