I've just spent two hours reading blogs and commentary about the Newtown, CT killings. Like everyone, my heart aches for that once peaceful town. I cannot imagine having a child murdered.
I saw on the news this morning that since 1999, there have been seven mass killings at schools. SEVEN incidents. In this year alone, there have been five non-school mass shootings. It's almost become common place, so much so that I only remembered two (Columbine and VT) of the seven, and one (Gabby Giffords) of the five. The mind can only take in so much horror.
Already the debates have started about how to fix the problem. Stricter gun laws, less violent video games/movies, better screening/help for the mentally ill, armed police officers in the schools, metal detectors at the schools, etc. All of these seem like good ideas. Why weren't some changes implemented after mass killing #1? Maybe because we didn't think it could happen again. We couldn't imagine it would happen again.
And here we are, a dozen episodes later, grieving the loss of innocent children. Little kids who were just learning to read and tie their shoes and ride a bike. We will never be able to eliminate all school violence in America, but we ought to be able to do better than we're doing.
The question that always comes up after such tragedies is How could God allow this to happen? Although I understand the anguish behind the cry, it's further saddening to hear this because the question implies a misunderstanding of God's character. God hates suffering and death more than we do. He grieves as we do over the loss of life. It is never His will that people are harmed.
The problem is that His will is often overruled by human will. That's the power God gave mankind: the freedom to dismiss Him, to distrust Him, to ignore Him, to mock Him, to disbelieve Him. It's completely our choice. Total freedom. That's what true love looks like.
So, we can be mad at God for giving us free will, if we want to. On occasion, I have wondered what He was thinking. We're too selfish and stupid to be trusted with such a gift; we make poor decisions all the time. But, the other option is that we are puppets, with no mind of our own. God loves us enough to give us the freedom to chose Him - or not. Freedom is what God allows.
It's not His fault we mess it up. He's always there to guide and and encourage and support - we can take it, or leave it. When we choose to dismiss God's will for our lives, we suffer, because the human heart is imperfect and fearful. Judgement is poor, and perspective is skewed. That's the human condition. Without God's influence, we're just floundering souls trying to figure it out on our own.
So, we self-medicate with self-destructive vices and idolize useless things and hide and exaggerate and manipulate and blame each other and defy authority and sometimes pick up guns and shoot. And God weeps.
But, He doesn't change the rules. We're still free to turn to Him, or stay our destructive course. Every day, we are free to choose.
We don't yet know the full story of Adam Lanza. We know he made a choice for evil, and innocents lost their lives. From Cain and Able to slavery, the Holocaust to 9-11, and all the shootings since, evil choices were made. God has watched His children destroy each other since the beginning of time.
And He waits with open arms for all the grieving to turn to Him for comfort and peace and justice. He is especially close to the bleeding, the dying, and the brokenhearted. He embraces every deceased victim with perfect, unbridled love. He is the only one who can heal the human soul and set things right.
I pray, as a country, we will implement changes that will help prevent further shootings. Legally, there is more we can do. The more permanent solution, however, is a matter of the heart. What choices are we making, every day, as teenagers, parents, neighbors, employees, managers, community leaders that are hurting others, marginalizing them? Killers do not grow up in a vacuum.
In our troubled society, we need God's guidance more than ever. I pray we can humble ourselves and seek it.
As Amy Grant sings, "no more lives torn apart...that time will heal all hearts...this is my grown-up Christmas list."