Try as I may, there’s no pretending that last Friday in Connecticut didn’t happen. It did.
Now, as photographs of these precious little ones, who were slaughtered without mercy, appear on the internet, I just can’t look at them. Like many of you, I see my own children and grandchildren in their innocent faces and I weep.
“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
I suspect that prayer, or one similar, was said by many of the victims on Thursday night as they were tucked into their beds. So, where was God the next morning to at least provide a warning or a guardian angel to protect them from this attention-seeking mad man armed to the teeth on a mission to snuff out their young lives?
As I imagine the image of those frightened six and seven year olds; executed as they huddled together in a corner of their classroom, I’m not in the mood to hear about the mysterious ways in which God works or, in seeking comfort, we must offer up more prayers to that same God who seems to have turned a deaf ear to the innocent pleas of those children from the night before. Which prayers get through and which ones find brick walls? How dare I ask the question?
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Christian whose faith has been shaken to the core by this atrocity and whose reaction has been more of anger than of pious submission and unquestioning obedience; historically a dangerous precedent.
My maker provided me with a brain; how can he not want me to use it even if it is filled with questions about such things as why children, who’ve yet to experience a full life like mine, have theirs snatched away in a hail of gunfire..or a famine..or genocide or disease?
I’ve already had one friend on Facebook express disappointment in my attitude. He reminds me that anger never solves anything but prayer does. I wanted to write back and point out a few obvious exceptions but chose not to. The days, weeks and months ahead are already shaping up to be overwhelmed with fighting between friends who happen to have different opinions about things like gun control and proper parenting.
A few weeks ago, Mallorie Hansmann, Lay Evangelical Leader and music director at Springdale Lutheran Church, asked if I’d narrate this year’s Christmas Cantata featuring music from our adult choir. I said, sure. The title of the presentation was “All Is Well.” Then came Friday when it became crystal clear that all was “not well” and I came close to calling Mallorie to say my heart wasn’t in it and to get somebody else. But, of course, Linda..whose faith never wavers..wasn’t about to let me beg off so I said a quick prayer asking for some sort of revelation to ease my anxiety..then stood up there in front of the congregation so they could get a good look at the hypocrite I am and whom Jesus warned of throughout the gospels, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
On the very first page of the narration leading into the choir’s second song, these words jumped out at me as I read them: “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in “ADAM” so all will be made alive in Christ.
Then I read the account of the Virgin Mary who willingly accepted Gabriel’s call that she bear God’s son..knowing full well that, in spite of his innocence, she would one day have to see her first born son, Jesus, tortured and nailed to a cross in payment for the world’s sin.
As the choir took a break, a young lady from our congregation with an angelic voice, Mickey McGrann, sang two songs about Mary and the birth of our savior.
The anger I’d been feeling gradually was replaced by a lump in my throat so large I feared being unable to continue the task at hand.
But finish we did and applause for the music and effort by all the participants was genuine and sustained. As I returned to my place out of view during the offertory I heard another sweet young female voice and looked around the corner into the sanctuary to see 8 or 9 year old Sydney Hage playing perfect chords with her little hands on a guitar nearly as big as she was and beautifully singing “Away in a Manger.”
I was glad for the handkerchief I’d remembered to stuff in my jacket and noticed others looking in their pockets and purses for theirs. It was as if God was using this little angel to let us all know that we are not forsaken and He understands our sorrow.
I still ache to know answers to so many spiritual questions..especially why children must suffer and die, but am also eternally grateful for those two talented young girls whose music helped steady my own faltering faith in a little country church last Sunday morning.