May 3 2011
I originally posted this four years ago after the horrific Virginia Tech shootings. It was a bad week.
Today one of my precious daughters and I stood in a rain. It soaked the many people who had gathered on a hillside behind a small Baptist church. It was another bad week. The wind was cold, and the broken rudy ground of the four open graves stained the puddling water red.
Four graves. One family.
Chaos and death… even in my Ringgold.
Until last Wednesday this community- this place- had meant only family, the thrill of my first kiss, the pleasure of trying Ms Owens’ patience, the friendship and mutual dependence that only the crucible of a shared adolescence can create- EdRay, Rhonda, Nett and so many others… now,…
… this week has reminded me of the certainty that death will come for those I love- just as it came for the bricks, cement and blackboards that birthed so many irreplaceable memories, and more importantly for those like the family we entrusted to the ground today. The recollection makes me gnash my teeth; it’s why I can not, will not, let go of our ancient faith. Amidst all the siren’s calls and intoxicating glitter of ‘normal’ days, I need to remember that on another day “the Great Thing” will be mine to face. So, I thought I’d put this post up again, if only for my own sake.
Her picture reminded me of my daughter.
There’s a clear resemblance and I was instantly drawn to the short description of this precious young lady. The account only made the connection stronger- she was openly Christian, home schooled, unusually innocent and sweet. Those who knew her thought she was likely praying for her attacker as he took her life.
Oh God. I could feel the tears forming. I’ve got that little girl living in my house.
Like every one else, I was saddened by the news of the Virginia Tech shootings. But this connection was powerful- both in its depth and speed. It was as if I were looking at my child’s picture- as if it was she who had been hurt.
She wasn’t, and I’m so thankful, but this precious, precious individual belongs to someone.
It’s different now. I can’t hear a news report without seeing her MySpace smile…and that of my daughter.
Someone’s child has died. Today has reminded me that someday mine will, too.
I’ve been thinking a lot about death, lately. It feels like we’ve had more than our share of medical stresses: Pancreatitis, CT Scans, Asthma, Neurological studies, Gallstones, MRI’s, EKG’s and multiple Ultrasounds all within the last six months. Those who have been praying know that this is just a partial list.
The latest and scariest were a couple of skin biopsies for my wife. The physician braced us for bad news. She believed it was melanoma. We’ve lost loved ones to that particular monster. When the doctor told us that we’d be back, it really scared us, because we knew that odd discoloration had been there for many, many years.
Turns out that everything is alright, but during those twelve days of waiting on the test results I did a lot of thinking. I pled for mercy and healing. I prayed and then prayed some more. The threat of death is ruthlessly clarifying.
I simply couldn’t imagine the world without Sandi living in it. Invariably, I began to review the reasons why…and this lead to thankfulness. What else is there to feel for a life filled with Sandi but thankfulness.
I’ve had years upon years of her blessing presence. The memories are thick and deep. I’ve been given so much already- so much, but it’s not enough. That’s not a self condemning sort of statement. I mean it. It’s the truth. There can simply never be enough time with the ones we love. But…and here’s the awful reality, one day it will be done. One day the sun will rise without them being there to feel its warmth. I may not loose my darling wife to cancer this year, but one day something will take her from me- or me from her. It’s certain. It’s certain….
Religion can put a hobby like coating on the truth it handles. It’s part of a day, but somehow disconnected to actual living. But here in the face of horrific truth as we find it, our faith comes to toil in the dirt of reality beside us.
Death is the great enemy. We can see it and feel it and hate it and fight it so concretely that it makes our belly hurt in the effort. There’s no stopping it. Not really. Not finally. There’s no where to hide from it. No sanctuary – not even in a place surrounded by youth and beautifully manicured grounds.
God damn it.
And that’s the answer. He did, and it had it coming.
For all my middle class sheltered American soft heartedness, I understand the hatred that comes with Monday’s violence. What happened was wrong. It was wrong.
I feel it so strongly that I can almost taste its metallic tang in my mouth. I see the face of the killer and I want to curse. I want to strike out…and I think this is right and good, as long as I keep in mind who the real enemy is. Evil deserves to be denounced.
When I’m tempted to shrink back from the condemnation language of Good Friday, I’ll need to remember death coming for this little sister and the others it grabbed in Virginia before moving on to stalk down each and every one I love. I’ll hate it, as my God hates it, and I’ll be thankful for his wrath and I’ll ask him to show no mercy.
Surely, mercy to the little Christian sister I’ve never met- and will never get to meet in this age.
Mercy to me and my loved ones.
Mercy even to the tormented life that became death’s instrument this past Monday. But to the enemy that reached through the young killer’s hands, nothing but cursing. Nothing but destruction.
Thank God for the cross.
“Me, too, Lord,” I want to say.
I hate it, too. Make me hate it…all the time.
We can loose the earthy, bloody truth amidst all the pretty dresses, ducklings and eggs of Easter …even among all the “going to heaven when you die” talk. Death’s been kicked in the teeth. He’s been judged and found wanting and God’s kicked him in the teeth.
Glory to you, Lord Christ!
One day the toes that slid into those shoes for the last time early last Monday morning will wiggle in the grass again. I’ll be able to hold Dad’s hand- the very same hand that once baited my hook and wiped my nose. No matter how the enemy comes, my eyes will one day look into my beloved eyes… again.
Christ has risen. Against death’s befuddled objection, he’s risen.
It’s hard to get more real…more relevant than the fingers, smiles and hugs of those we love. We get those back. All of them.
That’s the ultimate relevancy of the gospel. We get them back.
Life would be unbearable, if it were not true.