What Now?: Pondering the Tragedy in Aurora
A little over a week ago I had gotten up between three and four in the morning to feed our little baby Mattea. As is often my habit on weekdays, I turned the station to MSNBC to watch the morning news. I was saddened, as many of you were, to see that there had been a shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
I was saddened, but I was not shocked. These kinds of things have been a regular occurrence in our country. It is only a few months go by before another young man goes into a school to shoot classmates, or a disgruntled worker enters his employer’s place of business and opens fire, or some religious zealot decides to strap some bomb to his shoe or underwear and hop on plane.
Whenever things like this happen, people in leadership in churches, such as myself, are challenged by our parishioners and our critics to help make sense of what happened, and why it happened. People begin to wonder. Why are things like this allowed to happen? Is this a part of God’s plan? How do we respond?
I think about these questions a lot too. I do not have all of the answers. There is a lot I will not understand until I see God face to face.
What I have seen, in the world, in my life, and in the Scripture is that God can often take the painful, ugly, and sinful things that happen in the world and by some miracle make some sort of beauty and purpose out of them. He does this most often when we are able to grow the “why me” questions that we will never be able to answer and begin to ask ourselves “what now”.
This process is easier said than done when one is in the middle of coping with the evil and craziness of it all, as some in our community are. Dealing with this kind of ugliness takes time.
The process of asking “what now” out of tragedies like this is, however, a process we all have to go through to allow God to create meaning out of a situations in our world that are so contrary to what we understand as God’s will. We cannot fix the evil that happened, but we can begin to allow how we respond to what happened to make the world a better place instead of returning evil for evil. We can, by allowing God to work through awful, painful situations, somehow discover that God has brought beauty and power into the situation and into our lives by how we have responded and how the Holy Spirit has worked in the situation. This is true whether we are thinking about September 11, or wildfires coming to our doorstep, or this shooting in Aurora.
You see, bad things that happen end up being a lot like fertilizer. You first see piles of manure at a feed lot, you may think it is quite an ugly, stinky mess. This is because, at that point, it is. Drive by one, open the window, and take a deep breathe, and you will see what I mean. But take some fertilizer, apply it to a field or a garden in a wise manner, and you will see wonderful, beautiful things grow out of that stinky ugly stuff.
In the same way, God can make beauty out of the ugly things that happen in our lives and in the world. I do not think a deranged man doing evil in a movie theater is what God wants for him, for the people in the theater, or in the world. But I know that sometimes, in fact a lot of times, God has a strange way of taking what is not his will, and weaving it into his perfect plan. And, when he does that, a lot of times fruitful and beautiful things can grow out of what right now just looks like a pile of…well…fertilizer.