|Flag outside the Piedmont Post Office lowered at half-mast as a |
mark of respect for the victims of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
When we experience this kind of loss, we are often asking the question, "Why?" We want to ascribe some kind of meaning to it so that we can compartmentalize it in the sensible section of life. We would like all of life to be in this section and do our best to either put things there or to ignore them completely.
I've spoken about free will and how I don't think God takes people from this life as much as God receives them. That can be comforting but there are times we need to rage at the senselessness of what life deals us.
Lamentations, commonly attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, addresses a people that ran into the buzz saw of the Babylonian empire almost 2600 years ago. Their capital city - their holy city - of Jerusalem including their temple was destroyed. Their people were killed and carried away. What kind of sense would you make of this?
Here's the author's take on the violence done to them:
I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; 2he has driven and brought
me into darkness without any light; 3against me alone he turns his hand, again and again,
all day long. 4He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; 5he has
besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; 6he has made me sit in darkness
like the dead of long ago. 7He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put
heavy chains on me; 8though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; 9he has blocked
my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.
Lamentations 3:1-9, NRSV
Although I attribute the brutality to the misspent free will of the Babylonians, it sometimes feels good to rage against someone close to us. God may fill this role for us and sometimes pastors stand in for God as the human representative. I've been on the receiving end of a lot of anger before that didn't seem appropriate for the circumstance at hand. I attribute it to anger at God for some other issue.
Lamentations continues to spit and cuss through the chapter before the author begins to turn back toward hope. Have you ever cried until you can't cry anymore? Sometimes we have to get it out of our system, like expelling a poison. Only then can we look toward something positive.
21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22The steadfast love of the Lord never
ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your
faithfulness. 24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
25The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. 26It is good that
one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26, NRSV
My prayer is that the people of Aurora, Colorado may come to this understanding of God's love in their life more quickly than slowly. The cruel act of one individual has changed their lives for the worse. It would be easy to become hardened and bitter to the world because of it. Bitterness is a disease that seems to spread so easily.
The gunman surely was bitter.
My hope is that they do not learn from him but rather rise up in spite of him. But in the meantime, we weep and gnash our teeth with them, just as God surely does.