Coming out of the events of an elementary school shooting, I don’t have a ton of words to offer of explanation as to why these things happen or incredible wisdom as to how to keep things like this from happening again. I’m saddened by the events and the implication of what this means for so many little people and their families. As a soon-to-be father, I’m especially wary of what this means about the world that my daughter will soon be inhabiting. It was a long day yesterday and many words were said. And all of this in our season of Advent when we celebrate the coming of Jesus and the hope, joy, peace and love that He brings. It is hard to own those emotions right now, especially when we look at the state of the world today, but at the same time I do have hope.
What we see in these tragic circumstances is clarity of our humanity. The darkness and unexpected trial of these circumstances bring several uncomfortable truths about where we look for our hope.
This brings to light that our hope cannot be in the glory of the human spirit. Throughout this experience, we are shocked at the unbelievable brokeness required to do something so tragic. That a person can take violence in hand and turn it upon children is shocking and it wakes us up to the reality of what a person can be capable of. Since the event, I’ve been shying away from social media (and media in general) because of the way people are handling their fear and outrage. Stories of the media throwing microphones in the faces of elementary children and watching the back and forth of arguments on Facebook and Twitter of people so convinced they know what is best leaves us cynical and even angrier. Seeing this darkness in people scares us and makes us question all the people around us. We could easily descend into fear if we were depending on the perceived goodness of people to save us.
This also brings to light that our hope cannot be in the security of our institutions. This happens enough now that we can get past the ridiculous insanity of something so terrible. It’s a very sad day when all of our preparation and thoughts and dreams for our children are eaten up by the terror we feel in the light of news like this. Gun purchasing policies couldn’t save those kids, metal detectors didn’t, school drills could only help so many, our judicial system can’t bring them back. Our system is so limited to provide the true hope and justice that we seek. If we turn to our fragile systems to bring us hope, they constantly let us down as we see every break and crack in the facade of control and “safety.” These arbitrary structures and systems can’t give us the assurance or hope that we seek from them.
This also brings to light that our hope cannot be in the strength of our flesh. Life is fragile. We may find our identity and even a bit of our hope for life in the strength of our flesh or the resilience of our bodies to respond, but our life is a whisper. We think we can plan ahead and take care of our bodies to maximize our lease on life, but in the end we have no control over our physical lives. The cruel whim of another can extinguish the simplicity of our physical being and if this body with all its frailties and lack of control is all we have, then what kind of hope is that?
The last thing that comes to light in events like these is the place where I find hope. Even though everything looks lost and hopeless in the face of all this suffering and brokenness, this season is the time we celebrate that God sees something in us worth saving. In spite of all the evil and trauma that we witness, God values His creation in such a way that He was willing to sacrifice Himself for us. In the face of the darkness of the world and all the injustice and cruelty that can be, God sent His Light into the world to redeem it and turn back the darkness.It was to a world that rejected Him regularly 2,000 years ago, in that context God sent His beloved Son and valued His creation enough to give up the intimacy of their closeness and present Jesus to all the same fear and torment that we experience every day. He who held all of the power over life and death and creation became limited and as small as we are today. And He did all this so that we could be like Him and rise above the darkness of our physicality, the broken structures of this world and of our own human weakness.
Jesus is our celebration of “God With Us.” The Emmanuel. That is beautiful.
And that gives me hope for today and for tomorrow.