I Refuse to Cede to Death the Win
Within days, our eyes and ears and minds and hearts have drawn in far too much smoke and fire and blood and weeping.
One event, the bombing of the Boston Marathon, is clearly an act of terrorism.
The other event, the explosion at the Texas fertilizer factory, appears to be an accident of terrible proportions.
Both events, especially within just days of one another, remind us that we can’t count on a damn thing.
It’s preferable to foist that fact to the periphery of our minds, to keep this truth pressed away from the normal good-bye hugs as we leave for school or work, or the scratching in of plans in our calendars for a few weeks down the road, or the day-to-day assumptions that of course there is no disease brewing about in our bowels or our bellies or our breasts or our brains.
Generally, we can keep the news that we all know to be true, that any one of us could die now, say, properly contained.
It’s a good thing, too, because we might all become messes of neurotic slop on the floor if we actually recognized how terribly fragile it all is.
That said, at the in-breaking of sudden and glaring tragedy, there is truth also in our reduction to neurotic messes of slop.
Sudden despair and death call exactly for weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But if we don’t linger there, if we move through it after a time, colors and relationships and places and smells and routines somehow become simultaneously more vibrant and less sure.
There’s a rub, there.
It’s hard to know what to trust: the vibrancy or the uncertainty.
That can cause its own neuroticism.
We don’t know what to trust.
Least of all God.
Was God in Boston, Massachusetts? Was God in West, Texas?
Can God be trusted to be active somewhere, somehow, in the shock of the events themselves, and in the after-shocks as well, those tremors that rumble forever through our lives?
It’s a question.
It’s a good question.
And how you answer it both depends on and reveals your working theology, your way of thinking about God.
With a quick brushstroke, if you believe that God is indeed omnipotent, namely able to stop and start anything from happening, then Boston and West and accidents and cancers could leave you with figuring that God either caused them or allowed them to happen.
If you believe that God gives us some measure of freedom, then it could leave you wondering to what degree God is in fact involved with this world.
Both general routes have some decent anchoring in Scripture and tradition.
Here’s my take on it, for what it’s worth:
As a Christian, I see God most revealed in Jesus raised.
In that event, I see that God is not in explosions of death, but in explosions of life.
If God prefers death as a calling card, then Christians would believe that Jesus is still rotting away.
I believe instead that we see God in Boston and in West in the rescuers, and the investigators. I believe we see God in the consolers. I believe we see God in the healers. I believe we see God in those who are organizing next year’s race. I believe that we see God when we protest death’s coercive presence. I believe that we see God in those who live with contagious joy and peace. I believe that we see God in those who acknowledge the reality of fear, and say to it, “Step aside.” I believe that we see God in the people who reach to the fearful and the grieving and the harmed while saying, “You are not alone. Let me walk with you for a long while.” I believe that we see God in those who refuse to bow to violence and power as a means of stopping violence and power.
I believe, I trust, that death is real. Sometimes its presence never goes away, as the ache of so many parents and spouses and children and friends of its victims viscerally reveals to be true.
I believe, I trust, though, that life is real-er.
If I don’t, then I let death: the terrorists, the accidents, the disease, the tenuousness, the shocking grief, the fear, win.
And I refuse to cede death that win.