Thursday, September 8, 2011
But How Could He Let That Happen?
I struggle with an answer to that question. How do I explain to my children and myself how a loving God could let such atrocities occur? Why doesn't he stop them? He could prevent all this pain and heartbreak, but He doesn't. How is that love?
Last night, by 10 year old answered it for me beautifully. He kept sliding down the banister. I hate this. He doesn't seem to care what I think. The stairs are steep; the banister is slick and shiny; sliding is fun and exciting. No amount of warnings, punishments, or lectures have convinced him to give up his sliding completely. We have tried, his father and I. The child just won't listen. He is obstinate and the temptation is greater than any threat or warning we can make.
Last night, he slid down and landed on his 2 year old brother. #6 thudded on the ground and bonked his head on the wall. Crying, tears, and pain were the result of #3's defiance. Unfortunately, the consequences were not visited upon him, but upon his baby brother.
It was as I sat cuddling and consoling #6 that it dawned on me....God is a parent, too. He, too, watches His children disobey. He warns them; He points them toward the right path; He calls to them to change their ways, and just like me, He has to deal with the aftermath of their defiance.
God could have struck the hijackers dead on 9/11. They could have all keeled over from massive heart attacks. He could have swatted the planes from the sky. He did not. He instead offered them mercy and gave them every opportunity to repent and change their minds, right up until the moment of their deaths. He loved them enough to give them the chance to turn to Him even as He watched the horrible things they did. He was their Father, the Father of disobedient sons.
He was also the Father of those passengers on the planes. He called to them to rise up and offer themselves for the chance to protect their brothers and sisters on the ground. Those happy few in Pennsylvania heard the call of God and answered Him willingly, and became their Father's pride. The same too of the first responders in the Towers. They were their Father's mercy incarnate, hurrying the living toward safety even at the predictable cost of their own lives. What joy for a parent in kind, generous and obedient sons and daughters.
Part of being a parent is allowing your children to make horrendous and disastrous mistakes. Often, we can see the pitfalls long before our children get to them. We can call and call to our beloved ones, but there are times when they will not hear our voice. Then all a parent can do is love the injured, rebuke the disobedient, and try to ameliorate the damage that was done.
All I could do for my 2 year old last night was hold him close and kiss his owies. I could have prevented it completely by handcuffing my older boy to my side, but imprisonment would not teach him self-control and to listen to his parents' council. Instead, he would spend the whole of his life trying to escape from me and the prison I had built. We have to love them both, the guilty and the victim. We have to be parents to them both, just as God is parent to us all.
As I explained this to my sons this morning, the elder boy asked "But where was God's mercy and comfort on 9/11? Where was the hand of God?" It was then that I remembered the initial news reports of the tens of thousands who had died. The initial suspected death tolls were a staggering 30,000. Violence, hate and disobedience killed 3,000; but love and mercy saved 10 times that many. Then, God sent the entire Christian world to love, pray for and grieve with the families left behind. He sent His children, His beloved, to be His love for them on Earth that they would know they were not alone. In those first horrible moments and days, they were not. What Father could leave his children alone and abandoned in their pain?
It's not that God let it happen, it's that His children were disobedient and ignored the warnings of a wise and loving Father. In a tragedy, it is so easy to focus on the His power not exercised and lose focus on the love poured out.