I had just finished chaperoning a field trip with Randa’s kindergartener class… 20-something 5 & 6 year olds in a small aquarium for 2 hours. It was sweet, fun, long… and Randa cried when she had to get in line to go back on the bus. In my head, I was grateful for the memories she was making, kind of like when I was in school (except it was a different, different world 30 years ago, and I think we had more fun…). But I was also thinking, for the elevety-millionth time, Should I homeschool? When should I homeschool?
I drove away and treated myself to lunch. I had a sandwich and soup, a big tea, and a book on my iPad. But as I often do, I checked yahoo.com first. And then I saw the news:
You know which news. 27 dead in a school shooting. i think at that moment, it was 14 kids and 2 adults. The tears and fear came immediately. What kind of world? What kind of person? Why??!
I only read a little before I turned away. I learned after September 11th what a news barrage does to me. I finished eating and did the Christmas shopping I had planned. At the mall, I reacted in a post-9/11 way… tears in the middle of aisles, reaching out to a few friends to say, Oh my God and God help us. Trying to make eye contact with strangers, just to feel the in-person human connection we long for in loss.
I found myself thinking of things to say on Facebook. I am certainly a product of my time. As a writer-by-soul, I often turn to Facebook to share life observations. But my phone was nearly dead, and the several drafts of “profound” things running through my head seemed like too much. And I finally told myself, You know, the world is not standing by waiting for your official statement on this matter. Just pray.
I prayed. And I picked up my kids and cried silently in the driver’s seat. I hugged my husband when he got home and talked to my mom, twice. As I read the bits and pieces – principal died, teacher who saved her whole class, 20 kids, 6 and 7 year olds, – I was, like you, I’m sure, dangerously close to being consumed by the grief and dread.
As a person of faith – specifically, a believer in Jesus Christ – I always try to be sensitive about my reaction in faith to horrible things.This list of what not to say in a tragedy is helpful.. because God does not need our children as angels to keep Him company, and evil existing in this world is really not about Him giving us “no more than what we can handle.” What humans could “handle” burying their 6 year olds or their 27 year olds? What community could “handle” this happening in their school? And what does “handle” even mean in this scenario?
Just a few days before this occurred, I was in a post-Bible study conversation about God’s sovereignty, free will, and the existence of evil. I made some pretty strong statements about what I “think” is the heart of God. A friend of a friend lost her young child recently, and the instinctive thought of “It isn’t fair” was met by my reasoning of, “To God, the most perfect solution to that child’s pain was to have that child with Him. He wants all of us with Him. He created us for His pleasure, and it causes Him pain to see us struggle in this fallen world.”
Did I still believe that on Friday afternoon? Do I still believe that nightmare in Connecticut did not “take God by surprise?” Well, yes. If I do not believe in God’s love and authority in times of absolute horror, why do I believe in Him at all? But I also know this: I do not understand. It is not “ok.” And while I have peace that God rules the world and not evil, I do not feel peace about 6 and 7 year olds being murdered in their classroom (it hurts to even type that). And alongside that, I do not feel peace when mothers give birth to stillborn babies, when parents are murdered by their children or vice versa, when whole communities die of starvation or AIDS or massacre or an earthquake. I don’t think there is anything beautiful or peaceful about that. My logic hits a wall when things like this happen… and then, I choose to let my faith take over and go where my mind cannot comprehend. Because the Word I believe says that God causes all things – all things! (what?!) – to work together. And having been a believer in Christ for all this time (with some definite crises in faith thrown in the mix), I either believe His Word, or I do not.
It was hard to let Randa leave for school this morning. Expecting that her class might talk about the shooting today, we dressed her in green and told her about some children in a different state that went to Heaven (and for those well-meaning ‘Christians’ who questioned that notion over the weekend, please stay away. Jesus does not need your version of PR). We came to find out that she had overheard her big sister talking on the phone over the weekend and already had an inkling of “the shooting.” Ouch. What an illustration: we talked in hushed voices all weekend and avoided the TV news, but our 6 year-old found out anyway. We can shield and protect our children with all our power, and then, regardless of faith or homeschool vs outside school, they will be influenced – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – by forces outside of their parents.
Rod just informed me that the county police were outside Randa’s school when he dropped her off. What a dichotomy this brings to me. I am glad – I am a proponent not of making guns illegal (because murderers and terrorists are not law-abiding folks), but absolutely of having armed security in schools. I felt that way as a high school student, as a high school teacher, and as a school parent. I have heard lots of banter about airport security, etc. and I think, Yes. Our children are inside those government buildings. Why shouldn’t a good, trained, armed person be there to protect them? And I am sad – because I remember a time when the school doors were unlocked, before Laurie Dann, when it seemed there were still sacred places where evil didn’t go.
I remember wincing at the beginning of this school year when Randa talked about their disaster drills, about hiding under the desk with the lights off. We never had those when I was in school. I am glad she knows what to do. I am glad she knows to listen. I am glad that most teachers would do anything to protect their students. I am glad my child has 2 parents who would also do anything to keep her safe. I am glad we have faith in a God that is somehow bigger than all of this.
But for those 27 people, for their moms and dads, for a future that is more uncertain than ever, today I am just sad.