I was stunned today when, on Face Book, I saw something being passed around that can be summed up as follows:
Student: God, why do you allow such violence in our schools?
God: I am not allowed in schools
The line of reasoning here, if one thinks about it, is that somehow God allowed or condoned the recent shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newton, CN, because there is no longer explicit recognition, or prayer , in public schools. So, God got really angry about it all and permitted a massacre of first graders? Really? This is, as a colleague of mine put it, breaking the Third Commandment: You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain.
I don’t know about you, but I prayed plenty in a public school. I prayed for academic help. I prayed about some of the hard times in my life and the lives of my friends. I prayed, asking God what He might want me to do or where He might be leading me after graduation. I prayed when I felt scared, alone, or like no one understood me. I am not sure I am not alone. And here’s the thing: I know God was with me – hearing those prayers, walking with me. I know He was with me when I was struggling mightily to face my addiction to drugs and alcohol. He was with me, in every dangerous, disgusting, hurtful place I took myself. He never left.
As we struggle with the aftermath of this, there will be temptations to make it neat and tidy- to suggest “God has His reasons” or to somehow speculate on how this may be part of a divine plan we just aren’t privy to… please resist that temptation. It’s wrong, and hurtful, and makes God, not into the source of love, compassion and mercy, but rather into a monster.
He was in Sandy Hook School this past Friday. He was in hiding with children, standing with brave staff people and teachers, and I believe He was the first to gasp, cry and wail over the evil unleashed on those innocent little ones. He was also there to welcome them home to his heavenly kingdom, and to offer them love and healing beyond all telling, not because He planned for this to happen, but because in the face of evil and destruction, God enters, once again, and transforms the ugliness of the cross into the hope and beauty of Easter.