Friday, December 14, 2012

the silence of the lambs | what do we tell our children about gun violence in the sanctuary of learning?

It's not supposed to be like this. Just so we're crystal clear about that.

No one is supposed to walk into a grade school and slaughter children. No one has that right.

Someone has to say this clearly and compellingly to the children we are nurturing toward wholeness.

Today, and this weekend, and next week—long before we know why those children and their teaches were stolen from us, if indeed we ever come to know that fully—we will be face to face with kids who, in the teeth of this grotesquely efficient evil, question God and the adults who present themselves as being in charge of the world as it is.

We must tell the children it's not supposed to be like this.

We must tell them the God who spoke through the prophets at many times and in various ways—who in these last days has spoken to us by his Son—this God takes no pleasure in the suffering and death of his creatures.

We must tell them it's not supposed to be like this, and someday it won’t be.

We have to tell them the hope of the gospel includes a new heaven and a new earth where goodness is at home—we haven’t seen it, but in faith we see it coming.

In the meantime, we must tell them, life is grace and horrible things happen; people are capable of breathtaking acts of love and staggering acts of violence and oppression; the sun rises and the rain falls on people who are good and people who are horrid.

We must tell them about the mercy of Jesus who promises the good news will one day show itself to be every bit as good as the bad news is so relentlessly bad in these days. We must tell them life is hard and God is good.

But first we must listen to them and hear them. We must hear their denial and fear and anger and confusion—and we must be fearless in admitting our own fear, and anger, and confusion.

As we listen, we must not be afraid of silence...letting paper and colored markers express what can't be spoken—knowing the children will almost certainly require more blue and violet and black and gray than yellow and green.

We must be prepared to talk when we believe they are ready to hear. Without glibness. Without talking down. Without bluffing.

Here's is a comprehensive list of things we can promise the young who live in our care:

1. We will do everything in our power to protect them each and every day.

2. ...(there is no 2).

We must not make promises we can't keep.

That said, we must not believe for a moment that being unable to do everything we wish disqualifies us from doing everything we can—or relieves our duty to attempt everything we must. Strength and goodness were never prerequisites for action. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" the writer Annie Dillard asks,"or shall stand in his holy place?"
There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead—as if innocence had ever been—and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generations which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day. — Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, Harper and Row, 1977 p 56-57
This is the spirit in which each generation of God's people ushers the next generation to that table God prepares before us in the presence of our enemies. None of us comes to this table because we are worthy. If we come at all, we come because we are hungry.

We must be present, ears and eyes and hearts open to what is before us and around us and inside us. We must push ourselves to remember and tell the truth as well as we can, and trust God to make that enough.
[This is adapted from from It's Not Supposed to Be Like This, posted April 16, 2007, following the slaughter at Virginia Tech. Here are some biblical texts that inform these thoughts and may be useful as you explore all this: the opening paragraph of Hebrews...2 Peter 3...Hebrews 11...Matthew 5:38-48...Psalm 24...Psalm 23...Isaiah 55]

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