Forgive me in advance if this post is less polished, more rambling than usual. Like all of you, I am struggling to process the events of the past week. I have hesitated to write anything about it. I've read some wonderfully encouraging, wise words from others in response to the tragedy, and I have no new wisdom to share. But I need to put my heart onto paper this morning. Maybe you will recognize yourself here.
I have been wrecked by the shooting in Connecticut. I'm a mama, and I was once a teacher. I catch sight of my son's sweet dimples in the rearview mirror and burst into tears. I've pictured the face of every first grader who came through my own classroom and those of my colleagues. I remember how much I hated lockdown drills. They filled me with such a sense of dread. I would hover under the chalkboard with my precious group of little people and count the minutes until the "all clear," so thankful to know that it was all just pretend. My mind can't help but picture what came next for the students and faculty of Sandy Hook, as they began to realize the reality of what was happening there. It's too horrifying to imagine, but I do.
Like all of you, I've wrestled with the why. Why does evil sometimes get to win? I understand that we live in a fallen world, that the kingdom of darkness is in constant battle with the Kingdom of Heaven. I know that Satan is real and that he is bent on the destruction of every good thing in life - family, love, peace, innocence. All of which were shattered last Friday. And of course, I don't know why. We will never really know why on this side of heaven. And I am so blissfully far removed from this tragedy. I can't begin to imagine the "whys" that must scream through the minds of those parents and teachers and children left behind.
Like many of you, I've struggled to reconcile my overwhelming sense of thankfulness with an overwhelming sense of guilt. I am indescribably thankful to have my three healthy, whole children in my arms each night. I am newly aware of the gift of each giggle, each funny thing they say, each creative game they come up with, and each precious "I love you, Mama." And yet I feel so guilty that I still have them, and those parents do not. I get to tuck my children into bed each night and wake up to their sweet, stinky breath in my face, and it simply isn't fair that so many parents have to walk past their child's empty bed and wonder if they will ever feel joy again.
I feel guilty because my life is going on as usual. I'm Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, baking cookies, doing laundry, running errands. And my children drive me crazy, as usual. My kids still bicker, pick on each other, throw fits, whine, and grumble. They're still too loud when I have a headache. They disobey when my back in turned. Eli pulls his five-year-old attitude and Luke uses that whiny baby voice that makes me cringe and Maddie screams in the car and I still feel the urge to lock them in their rooms and drive all the way to Mexico. I want to sit with them, cuddle them, speak sweet words of love and affirmation to them and never let them go. And they need that. But they also still require training up and discipline, and it feels wrong somehow to put my child in time-out or give someone a spanking when there are mommies and daddies who would give anything to be able to hear their children throw a tantrum again.
As I've been in my Advent study this week, I've read familiar scripture with fresh eyes. In the light of this unspeakable tragedy, in the light of a world that generally seems to be out of control with ugliness and evil, the ideas of hope, joy, peace, and love seem idealistic and fake. But each verse that I've worked through has brought me new understanding of what I've always known: In this life, the only true, lasting, unfailing source of hope, joy, peace, and love is Jesus. Our hope is in the resurrection, where Jesus conquered death once and for all. Our joy overflows out of the thankfulness of being forgiven and loved by the God of the universe. Our peace is in knowing that He is the King, and that one day He will bring every single thing on earth back to order. Our love is Jesus, the One who humbled himself to a lowly human birth and a horrifying, senseless death because He just wanted to reach us so much. This is the truth. And it is why we can say with confidence that, even as we walk through the shadow of the valley of death, we will fear no evil.
But still, it hurts.