A Benevolent Response to Tragedy

On television the other night George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Florida shooter of Trayvon Martin, was being interviewed. He declared that his actions were self defensive but apologized to the family, nonetheless. He then turned his gaze directly into the camera. “I believe that the will of God has been done,” he said.

I was stunned! This was wrong on so many levels! The Martin family has lost their beautiful son forever and the shooter dismisses this with the “Will of God” defense!

Does God want to take credit for Zimmerman’s violence?

It got me thinking… why do we work so hard to give tragic, unexplainable circumstances the God stamp of approval? Is it comforting in some way? If so, to whom?

The problem is that the victims of such occurrences are left with a terrible taste in their mouths for a God who at best allows evil and at worst has a willful purpose in evil, when they need the loving presence of god the most.

Just a few nights ago Aurora, Colorado suffered a tragedy unthinkable for any parent who sends their kids off to the movie theater. Twelve deaths and fifty-eight wounded unjustly at the hand of a very, very broken man. How will people think about this and what will be said?

A few days ago I read something in the Celtic Daily Prayer (pg. 695-96) that made a lot of sense to me.

            “It will be all right in the end,” someone says. Will it? Maybe. But often that is not the case. “There is a purpose in all this,” says another.  This implies that God intended this awful situation, that He approves of suffering. (Especially if, as sometimes happens, we bring the trouble on ourselves, it would be insulting to God to suggest that the wreckage was His idea in the first place.)

            All that we deeply experience is significant (even if it was not what we or God intended to happen!)

            What we can say truthfully in a bad and trying situation is this: ‘This is not without significance.’

            But, especially in times of deep suffering, easy answers that come glibly off the tongue are insulting, hurtful and insensitive.

Some of the most painful times in my life have been worsened by those who tried to explain God’s reason for my tragedy. In my immaturity i have thoughtlessly done this to others myself. If one were to stop and think for a moment it wouldn’t have to be so. What would love dictate?

When comforting our suffering brothers and sisters can we ignore our own urges to make sense out of the situation long enough to  acknowledge the significance of the event without further comment? Can we be witnesses to their pain and leave off theologizing and judging?

Isn’t that what love would look like?

Just some food for thought…

The Keeper of My Secrets

The Keeper of My Secrets

I see my mailman around the neighborhood nearly every day. He always waves or says hello. He even recognizes me when I am in my car. I’ve noticed that he recognizes and waves to my daughter, Stephanie, as well. In fact, he knows everyone in the neighborhood. He should, he has been our mailman for thirteen years. So what occurred to me a few days ago was really quite embarrassing. I realized that although I see him at least a few times per week I do not know his name. So I determined to ask the next time I saw him.

Today was the day. He came up my steps with my mail in hand while I was sitting on my porch. I ventured, “You know, I realized that even though you bring this mail every day and I recognize you, I don’t know your name and you have probably have known mine for quite some time.” “My name is Julius,” he smiled and handed me a few envelopes. On the top of the stack was an item from Banana Republic, my new credit card, which I had not yet discussed with my husband.

As my eyes lingered on the bill it quickly occurred to me that this man knows a lot about me. He sees everything that comes to my mailbox, doctor bills, credit cards, letters, and IRS communications. You get the idea.  I said, “Wow, and you know so many of my secrets!”

“Yes, I do,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “but I promised to keep them when I signed on with the Post Office.”

I was stunned, first by his response and then by the recognition of how many others  there must be that quietly serve me without my knowledge or notice, people who are part of my community, people who live and die in my neighborhood? What are their stories and their names? What richness my inattention has caused me to miss!  I immediately determined within myself to notice and to acknowledge them.

“Thank you for bringing my mail, Julius!”

“You are welcome, Deborah.” His eyes again twinkled a smile and went on his way.