Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where is God in Tragedy?

It’s Tuesday morning, December 18.  Four days ago, a young soul, lost in mental illness committed a crime that I, and our whole nation, cannot fathom.

I am a school teacher who has already thought about how I would push my piano in front of the classroom door and shove my students into my closet.

I am a mother who, this morning, saw a father get out of his car to kiss his high-school-aged son goodbye (right out in the open!)  when I dropped my own child off.  I shuddered as she walked by the police car parked boldly on the sidewalk in front of the school.  

I am also a mother who, 16 years ago, held her two month old daughter as she died … two months before Christmas.  

My Caroline never left the hospital.  Diagnosed with a birth defect when I was 5 months pregnant, she fought an incredible fight from the moment she made her first howl at the world.  Sometimes I think it was purely my will pouring into her.  But stubborn hope is something that has kept me going in life, so perhaps it was just who she was through DNA.  I chose “Faith” as her middle name and it fit her and me perfectly.  This was a time when her name was sometimes the only faith I had.  Medications had swollen her face, and I had not looked into her eyes in weeks.  She would try hard to open them when she heard my voice, her tiny eyebrows moving up and down to no avail.  I would stroke her in reassurance and she would relax the effort in her little face.  I spent two months driving back and forth to the hospital in conversation with God.  Half the time I was praying fervently for God’s healing; the other half I spent shouting to God how I hated him for doing this to her.  That’s right.  I told God I hated him.  I was not afraid of him striking me down.  I welcomed it.  What worse could he do to me than take my child? I offered myself in Caroline’s place.  I would be slapped back into reality (probably God’s form of striking me down) when I arrived at the baby-sitter’s and my beautiful, smiling, 2 year-old daughter came running to me with arms outstretched.  She was my “earthly savior” (my saving grace), a reminder that there is ALWAYS someone that needs and loves me.  

You are an “earthly savior” to someone, or will be one day.  Just praying for someone can be enough.  Trust me.  God has interesting ways of way of reminding us that He is everywhere.

There came a day when I had to change my prayers from “please bring her home to us by Christmas” to “please let me look in her eyes again and be there when she dies.”  By God’s amazing and often hard to comprehend grace, Caroline opened her eyes again and looked at me in those last days. I was holding her in my arms as she passed into His.

People said, “God does not give you more than you can handle.”  I would say “I wish God thought I was a wimp.”  Some offered comfort by saying, “I cannot imagine what you are going through.”  Yes, I have lost a child, but even I cannot wrap my head around this recent tragedy. How do we understand?

I found God working through the people that prayed for me when I had no prayers left to utter out of my empty and nearly faithless heart.  I found great solace in the words, “God lost His child too.” But the most meaningful thing said to me was by the mother of a friend at church who, just 10 months prior, had lost her young son to cancer.  She said, “Peggy, God does not make our children sick and take them from us, He is there when these things happen.”  She was right and those words have comforted me many times since. Just fill in the blank before “he is there when it happens” and you have an idea of God’s all encompassing love. Today, like sixteen years ago, I am so thankful for the Heavenly Savior whose birth we await, for a God that loves us when we do not love him back, for the continued signs of God’s presence in the “earthly saviors” who appear in so many forms to bind us together in faith, and for the joyful and perhaps even comforting anticipation that Advent brings to my broken heart and to our broken world.  

Peggy Young


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