Friday, December 14, 2012

How to eradicate evil

In truth, what I did* yesterday was not very hard.  But it felt like it. 

The Officer and I looked our public-schooled, 9 and 7 year olds in the eyes; and we told them the truth. 

        Evil stalks even the steps of the innocent, the defenseless. 
We told them about the tragedy in an elementary school classroom, thousands of miles away.  We talked about how each of those children would eat dinner with Jesus that night; how they would be forever safe and forever loved.  But we also talked about how much it would hurt their families to be without them (no, the Officer and I could not get through that without choking up).  We talked about how the police and teachers and adults did what they could to keep those children safe, about how the adults in their lives strive to keep them safe.  And we talked about how sometimes, for reasons we can’t understand, evil destroys, evil steals, and that sometimes, evil kills. 

But we also asserted what I know without a doubt:

        There was not one moment that God was not in that room

                --present with each one of those children. 

                They were never, not for one breath, alone.       

Then we told them if they had any questions, at any point, to come and ask us.  If they want to talk about it, one of us is always available.  And we told them that if they wanted to pray: for the children, for their families, for the police, the students, the teachers; or to ask God, “why,” that one of us was always ready to do that right beside them.  But if they just wanted to talk to God about it alone, with only Him, He was always, always ready. 

And then, we went on with life.  A little more tenderly, a little more carefully, a little more aware than we had before.  Because that is what life does; even when we’re not entirely ready for it to, it goes on.
Honestly, reader, this was not a conversation I wanted to have with our children.  The Officer leaned towards sheltering them.  I don’t blame him; who wants their children to know that sometimes, on this rotten and broken planet, evil wins?  Who wants to look into the eyes of innocence and shatter it with the truth that sometimes all of our efforts and prayers just aren’t enough?  That sometimes the outcome seems to be the opposite of what a loving God would do?

But if we hide the truth, shelter them from the reality that there are days when evil seems to have won, then we miss the fullness of the very story of redemption and grace. 
There will be a lot of people in the next few days and weeks who will connect this tragedy with the truth that we are a world in desperate need of a Savior.  And they’re right.  We are in desperate need of our Lord and Savior.  But if we do not or cannot answer the reality of this tragedy with the fullness of truth, then we have given evil more power than it should have.  For the truth isn’t only that the world needs a Savior, but the truth is also why we need one.  Not merely to save us from the evil of madmen who slaughter innocents; but save us from the plague of sin and death that is incubating in each and every one of us.  Believer and non.  Parent and child.  Loved and un. 

Every single person ever needs a Savior to rescue us from ourselves, for we are the germinators of death. 
Because each and every single one of us has enough sin and depravity in us (when considered from the vantage point of a holy and perfect and just God) to outweigh any good we could ever do – in collective or in individual.  There isn’t enough good in the human race—through all of history, both forward and back—to tip the scales against evil.  And it doesn’t take a massive tragedy like yesterday to prove that.  All it takes is one glance at the state of our planet, the state of our families, the state of our very hearts (our pride, or greed, or anger, or lust, or self-absorption).       

The only thing that can eradicate evil from humanity is the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.  And while this death was a once-for-all atonement for our breaking the rules that protected all creation, even the hearts of our fellow humans (for which we each, individually, earn and germinate death), it only applies if it's accepted.  We accept this exchange of Jesus for ourselves by admitting that as individuals we are culpable in our disobedience, and that no good we ever do will be enough to pay for what we have individually destroyed of our own volition.  This acceptance requires the desire to have our debt paid for by Jesus; and to then hand over our pitiful attempts at a good life to Him, so that we may be made more like him by following his example and leaving our old life of hurtful and destructive disobedience behind.
Thus if we shield one another from the truth of our destructive ways, our human history of depravity, our personal experience with evil , then we leave no room for grace to intervene, to change the track of eternity.  We hide evil, but in doing so, we shut out Truth and we silence Love. 

Because God already acted on our behalf.  He sent his very own, only Son to die in our stead.  He choose to sacrifice His child for us.  And in doing so, He ultimately and completely defeated evil with unrelenting and incomprehensible Love. 

Practicality – How I’m handling the next few days
I will be honest, reader.  As a parent, I cannot think about the events of Friday morning.  I cannot watch the news, read social feeds, or be online.  I cannot let my mind go there – put myself in the place of those parents, picture that room, imagine what those little innocents endured.  I cannot because I don’t think I’d be able to come up for air.  I think that darkness would devour my sleep and take up permanent residence in my thoughts. 

And that’s okay, because my ruminations, my empathy, will do nothing for the situation.  I can hand it all – the little ones, their families, the first responders, the survivors, everyone – over to God.  He is the only One big enough to handle all of this pain anyway.
I will not, in a public forum, engage in conversations about gun control or mental health policies, or any other political topics roused by this tragedy.  Because, in all honesty, now is simply not the time.  Nor will I discuss theological theories about the why’s of this horror; for again, now is not the time. 

Neither will I talk about my reaction to this event.  I am not personally affected; I have no ownership of it.  Thus it is not for me to add to the noise of the crowd, thereby detracting from the real pain experienced by those touched by this tragedy.
 I will not seek out feel-good stories that will restore my faith in humanity.  Because faith in humanity is misplaced and bound to not merely disappoint, but epically and eternally fail. 

If how I’m handling these next few days feels wrong for you, know that it is okay to feel grief, even if you knew no one affected.  It is okay to be angry.  It is okay to be scared.  It is okay to be confused or conflicted (passivism v. justified action; forgiveness v. anger; fear v. unshaken faith).  It’s okay to seek out some light – in the form of stories that show the good in humanity or in circling your proverbial wagon and sharing time and love with those you hold most dear (and no, guilt has no place therein – don’t give it space); because for so many of us, we must see that the light remains, that it still exists, that hope and love can still win.  And it’s also more than okay to hand whatever you’re feeling over to the Holy Spirit, without explanation.  He knows your heart, He really doesn’t need one.     
Just be sure to fall on your knees—in grief, in fear, in anger, in confusion, in desperation.  Beg for healing, for understanding, for courage (in my case, to send my kids to school on Monday), for justice, for mercy, for Christ to come quickly.  And stay there as long as you need to. 

Then get up, and fight the darkness.  With Truth, with Love, with Light.  Be these in the world, so that Love and Truth and Light and Hope win the day.  Remind evil once again that it has its eviction notice, and that all of creation strains evermore towards that day.     

              ~Come, Lord Jesus, come.  Amen~


* There are parents who will choose a different path; and I am not here to defend my choice, nor to judge theirs.  The Officer and I choose to tell our children, because we felt it would be too challenging in the next few days/weeks to shield them from it and we would rather control the information and frame it in context that is appropriate for our family, instead of running damage control after the fact.      

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