I was all prepared to write something funny or something Christmasy as would befit the season, but this morning’s events in Connecticut have jolted me from that path and brought new sadness as well as sadness of memory to what should be the most wonderful time of the year. Earlier this morning,
24-year-old Ryan Lanza went into his mother’s 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered a kindergarten classroom in Sandy Hook, Connecticut , shot and killed his mother, and opened fire on the children. All we know for certain at the moment is 18 children — all under age ten — are dead along with eight of their teachers. Those numbers could rise. Lanza’s mother was found dead later.
This hurts me on more levels than I can adequately express. For one, I was a high school teacher in the black days of Columbine and the spate of copycat killings which followed. My colleagues and I talked about little else during that awful period because we were completely aware it could easily happen to us. We all knew students — TAUGHT students — who were ticking time bombs whom we were powerless to help. I must have run over an attack scenario in my mind hundreds of times. I even set up my classroom to provide maximum cover for students should someone think the unthinkable. The school supposedly had a plan; I know I did and I told my students if they heard gunshots they only had to remember one instruction, “follow Coach Wham.” My children knew how seriously I took the phrase in loco parentis and if anyone was getting shot, it would be me or over my dead body.
As someone who struggles with mental issues of my own, I also hurt because I KNOW this young man had to be mentally disturbed in some way, shape or form. Normal, well-adjusted people do not kill innocent babies in cold blood; they simply don’t; not even in wartime. That’s why the epithet of “baby killer” is one of the most terrible insults anyone can spew at a soldier. I have no idea what will eventually come to light, but I’m willing to bet someone somewhere is thinking right now “I KNEW this was going to happen. I saw all the signs.” I know what it feels like to cry out for help in all the wrong ways and to feel so helplessly out of control and at the mercy of my own mind. I’m just thankful that my anger has always turned inward because I can’t imagine doing something like this on the worst unmedicated day I’ve ever had, but at the same time I ache terribly for someone so consumed he could find no other means towards peace than this massacre which ended with him taking his own life.
This tragedy disturbs me and angers me as well because I am a gun owner and a gun supporter, but I know it won’t be long until some politician tries to make a name for himself by leading a crusade against firearms. First of all, it makes me want to puke whenever I see some little political worm making political hay out of a tragedy like this. It cheapens the deaths of these innocents and it paints even more innocent people with an unfairly broad brush. I will soon be 42 and been around guns all my life, but I have yet to see one that could act of its own free will. Legislators can ban anything they want but until they can ban evil and hatred from the human heart they don’t have a chance of stopping violence because laws do not affect people who have no intention of following the laws in the first place.
Most of all, however, this awful episode deeply saddens me as a Christian. I know, as surely as I know stop signs are red, people are going to start throwing out expressions like “Where’s this ‘God’ of yours now?” They’ll ask, “How could a God who’s supposed to love us let this happen to CHILDREN?” They’ll claim, “I’ll never follow or believe in a God who is powerless to stop this kind of evil.” And it will go on and on. Atheists like Richard Dawkins have a field day whenever a tragedy like this occurs because they point at it as proof God doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, too many people won’t look for answers and will believe this wrong thinking.
Where was God? He was where He’s always been — sitting on the throne of Heaven completely aware of everything that has ever happened, is happening, or ever will happen from eternity past to eternity future. The hard truth is, God knew this was going to happen before the plan ever became a thought in the poor deranged gunman’s mind. What so many people fail to realize is “knowing” something isn’t the same as “causing” something.
So, why does God “let” these things happen? That’s a have your cake question. Sure, God can “make” His creations (that’s us) do whatever He wants us to do, but that’s a one way street. Make us do something once, we’ll be made to do everything forever. It’s free will. We all praise and love the idea of “freedom” and “free will” but most of us don’t want to acknowledge the fact that “freedom” means just that — and if we’re free to do good; we’re also free to do otherwise. Without free will, we would never have anything like school shootings, but we’d never have anything like the Mona Lisa or the Empire State building either. Free will is all about choices and in order to free us to make good choices, God had to acknowledge some of us would make bad choices. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.
Finally, let me say one thing to those who can’t believe God could allow / do something like this AND to all the parents who lost their precious children in this horrible tragedy, God understands EXACTLY how you feel. He is a parent. He had an only child too — a son actually — who was also killed by hate filled, unfeeling men, with one important difference — God DID allow His Son to be killed. God knew from eternity past that His only beloved son would die, and He knew He would STAND ASIDE and allow it to happen even as that Son begged His Father for rescue. God the Eternal, Perfect Father watched His son die so that we could live. I do not pretend to understand it, but I know it is so. So for all the parents and loved ones who lost children today, understand that you are understood by the One who catches your tears in a bottle. If you will reach out to Him, even in this darkest hour, you will find Him waiting to comfort you.