I won’t ever be the first to comment on current events. I am slow, hesitant to jump without all the conclusions, and by the time I have words put together most of the world has moved on.
Last Monday my daughter sat in a traditional classroom for the first time ever. She’s 17, a senior in high school, and homeschooled. She’s been in small co-op-type classrooms with 5 or 6 other students, but mostly she’s been at the kitchen table or on the living room floor with her books sprawled all around.
Thursday, she pulled onto the campus of Umpqua Community College for her fourth day of classes and was immediately turned around by the S.W.A.T team.
I do credit God, you know. I give Him glory and am so thankful that Bailey, who was headed to the next class in the very room where the tragedy took place, was spared.
But I have a hard time reconciling my overwhelming gratitude with the extreme grief of Thursday.
She called me at 10:44 a.m., just 6 minutes after the shooting began, to tell me what was going on. She pulled over at a diner near the college to begin the heavy task of texting and calling every friend she knew that could be on campus. At least two were in lockdown in classrooms nearby – one next door to the shooting.
Having to account for 15-20 of your friends on a Thursday morning in October is a long process.
So I hugged her extra-long that night and imagined all the what-ifs. We stayed home from the vigils and prayer meetings, antisocial in our grief and disbelief I guess. We had all the discussions – gun control, moral depravity, the responsibility of government versus responsibility of the people, and the question of whether we can really expect anything different from a world where Christ is a historical figure, not a present reality.
He targeted Christians, right here in our little community, and they say that thoughts and prayers are not enough.
Right in the middle of a normal week we are reminded that nothing here really is. Nothing here is normal. Nothing is routine. Nothing can be taken lightly and no policy is enough.
We are sojourners in a strange place.
I feel the overwhelming what-ifs and I know, again, that we are in the hands of a God who created Eden and gave us a choice – not just Eve and Adam, not just ‘good people’ who make selfish choices sometimes. All people. All with choices. All with power for evil or beauty.
It’s too much. Why is evil a choice and why doesn’t God intervene and how are we supposed to be comforted by knowing that God knows, and yet evil happens anyways? What’s comforting about a God we cannot see?
I hold my daughter tight and just imagine if I couldn’t, if that call at 10:44 had been different, if she had arrived 2 minutes earlier and been walking to class in Snyder 15 with her backpack and thick books and state volleyball t-shirt on, pocket-knife clipped in the front pocket of her jeans, mind on her game that evening, all 17 and grown-up but still needing me to buy her college books with her and walk around campus with her the week before to scope out all her classrooms.
What-if and how would I be comforted then? With thoughts and prayers?
Eden has fallen.
We are reminded that evil doesn’t lurk only in other places and Douglas County has problems beyond our meth addictions and unemployment.
We have all the beauty God could offer us here, with our mountains and valleys and the beach on one side, high desert on the other. But we have choices and a bent for sin, also. The worst kind of ugly.
Life is precious but not delicate. We can’t tiptoe around and handle it with care or it will consume us, this trying to preserve and protect and prolong.
We can only live circumspectly – watching, aware, but not afraid. We are careful but not full of cares, and we hope less in world peace than we do the Prince of Peace, because we know the times.
We can only be changed. We won’t allow the hurt to numb, but we stop the pain from becoming rage.
Anger is our temporary solace. We won’t turn to revenge or rebuttal or recycling the same hatred that got us here – we are angry while we wait for forgiveness, for healing.
We can only take back our wounded and our heroes and our what-ifs – all the ones whose cars wouldn’t start, who just switched classes the day before, who were late, who were sick, who left early or were coming later. We hold them tight.
We honor those who left this life because of someone else’s choice, and we choose for them again – to remember, to laugh again someday, to undo the permanence as best we can by overcoming evil with good.
Our world is not safer with more laws, our children not exempt from evil with more legislation. Right now all we have are thoughts and prayers, and those are leading this community to love in ways I never would have imagined: fundraisers, memorials, the high school band performing around town, businesses giving away goods and inviting donations, rival teams joining to support victims, and more opportunities for real conversations than we’ve ever had before.
Maybe we don’t understand the power of our thoughts and prayers because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Cor. 1:25).
In an upside down world that has forgotten its God, where nothing is enough because we are not fulfilled in Christ, maybe changing our thoughts and our prayers is our first step.