Making Sense Out of Senseless Tragedies

“The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think.” ~Randy Pausch

I was oblivious to the senseless tragedy of December 14th for most of my workday. I had met teachers and assistants at my office door with literacy assessments ready to be given to the students at our school. I walked the halls of the school to ensure the testing was going smoothly. I spent the majority of my morning troubleshooting a scanner problem and by the afternoon hours, I was engrossed in fixing my quarterly district reports on discipline. Then I received a text message from a friend about the Connecticut shootings. Suddenly, I was cast back into the real world that existed outside of my office door.

Like most parents I know, I have spent my weekend trying to comprehend what happened to those innocent victims of Friday‘s shooting. I have purposefully kept my daughters away from the news in an attempt to shield them from unnecessary anxiety. Perhaps I was shielding myself from having to explain the evil that exists in this world. I’m not sure. I have held my daughters longer and tighter, I didn’t fuss when they wanted to crawl into my bed in the late hours of the night, I listened with more intensity to what they had to say, we played games, told stories, practiced the “art” of silliness, and lived in the moment.

During more remote and quiet times as I paced the floors of my house, I again tried to make sense of things – how would I explain to a child what I myself fail to understand? My hours of thoughtful meditation brought me to these conclusions:

1. If given an option, I am certain that twenty random adults would have been willing to give their lives for those twenty children. Such an offer was not presented.

2. Speculating about the shooter’s motives seems futile to me at this point. That depth of darkness cannot possibly be comprehended by the majority of people.

3. I know many wonder about God‘s presence in cases such as these. I believe He was there, bearing witness to the events as they unfolded. The Bible tells us that God’s heart is burdened by the sins of man and He was no less burdened on Friday. He ushered those children in immediately.

4. Many have asked how God could allow such a sickening event to take place. I believe it is called Free Will. Years ago I read in a Max Lucado book, his imagined account of man’s creation. In it, Lucado describes how the angels were present as God fashioned with His own hands the image of Adam. However, God inserted into this creation at the very end, something that made the angels gasp with disbelief and question why God would give this creature such a thing as free will. Didn’t God understand what this would mean? What could possibly happen as a result? With a heavy heart, God answered that yes, He understood the possible ramifications of giving man Free Will – that He would choose to reject God’s love. But in Lucado’s account the Lord explains that real love comes with freedom. If He were to MAKE man love and obey Him, then it wouldn’t be love at all; it would be His dictatorship over man.

Such an account gives us a glimpse into the “why” behind such tragedies. I cannot fathom that things like this are ever God’s Will or Plan. I believe that as humans with God-given Free Will, we make choices that run counter to God’s ultimate plan for our lives. These choices bear consequences that can be far-reaching. On Friday morning, a troubled, dark soul decided to end the lives of innocent children, adults and himself for reasons that only God knows. Could He have stopped it? Of course, He is God. But for reasons I don’t understand, He didn’t.

5. Schools, churches, movie theaters, playgrounds, and homes should be safe for all children all the time. The sad reality is – they are not. As an educator, I would never hesitate to protect those young lives in my charge. I entrust my two daughters to teachers and staff members that I feel would do the same. As an assistant principal, I feel that charge to be more encompassing. I would lay my life down for any faculty, staff member and child in that building as well as our principal, V. V and I talked for a long time before heading home on Friday. Our hearts were indeed quite heavy.

I can’t say whether tougher gun laws are the answer, if we need a tighter mental health system, putting heavier security measures in our schools would help, or just what the answer is to Friday’s massacre. Maybe there simply are none. I know that the lives of those families are forever altered, 27 lives are forever frozen in time, and a town/nation must make sense out of something so very senseless.

There are some things that such a tragedy can teach us – life is but a vapor, never pass up the opportunity to say what you need to say every single day to those who mean the most, and….

Live well….


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: the ultimate question | alabaster jar
  2. Trackback: Trying to Make Sense | A View From A Palmtree

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