In a meeting with strangers, Thursday night, the question was asked, “Who gets stressed?” We all knowingly chuckled. We ALL get stressed.
The leader asked, “What stresses you?” Work. Family. Relationships. Health. Money.
In my head, I was screaming, “WHAT STRESSES ME? SEVENTEEN STUDENTS AND FACULTY WERE SLAUGHTERED TWO WEEKS AGO IN A LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL! INSTITUTIONS MEANT TO PROTECT US FAILED! A TROUBLED KID, REPEATEDLY SHOWING SIGNS OF MENTAL ILLNESS, LEGALLY PURCHASED AN ASSAULT-STYLE RIFLE, WITH THE EXPRESSED INTENT OF COMMITTING MASS MURDER! OUR WHOLE COMMUNITY IS TRAUMATIZED! WHAT STRESSES ME? ARE YOU JOKING?”
But, I never said a word, out loud. I smiled and nodded. “Yes. Work, family, and money stress me too.”
I know this sounds terribly judgmental – please, forgive me. As I listened to our trite examples of stress, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Have we forgotten what JUST happened? Or, are we just being polite? Or, is it too painful to say out loud? Are others inwardly shouting, as I am? Or, has everyone else moved on?”
I know we have to move on, some how. We can’t wallow in this forever. The students have gone back to school. Businesses are open. Teams are playing sports. New stories are making the headlines.
But, I can’t “move on.” Though I wasn’t directly affected by this tragedy, this tragedy has deeply affected me. I’m functioning, fairly normally, I think. But, my soul is troubled. I’m wrestling with questions I’ve not really wrestled with before, and I can’t find satisfactory answers. My heart hurts, a lot. My prayers have devolved into angry rants. I’m listening, but not hearing.
My struggle is not nearly as significant as the MSD families who lost loved ones, or the students who witnessed horrors, or the parents who now fear their children’s safety, or the faculty and staff who, somehow, must pick up the pieces and make something of the remaining academic year.
Perhaps I’m struggling because I’m supposed to speak for God. After all, that’s my job. That is what I’m paid to do. I’m supposed to know why God allows tragedies to happen. No. I take that back. I’m supposed to know why God allowed THIS tragedy to happen. I’m supposed to know where God was during THIS shooting. I’m supposed to know why a “good” God allowed THIS evil and suffering. I’m supposed to know why God didn’t intervene.
God! Why didn’t you intervene?????
I don’t know. I’ve had answers before, when things happened to strangers, in far away places. But, today, two and a half weeks later, my neat theological explanations aren’t holding water. At least, they’re not for me.
I can’t seem to retreat into comfortable spiritual routines, or familiar theological answers, or even my faith. In fact, it’s my faith that troubles me most. How do I speak for a God I don’t understand? I’ve never presumed to comprehend God. But, that’s different. God is beyond human comprehension. I actually like that. I need that. I’m comfortable with that. This? Not so much.
Though I haven’t lost or abandoned my core spiritual convictions, or turned my back on God, I feel like my foundation has turned to quicksand. Where is my rock? I don’t know where to step and stand with confidence. And, I’m beginning to wonder if “moving on” spiritually will require me to know and speak for God with a lot less certainty. That’s unsettling. To say the least, that stresses me.
Stressed? Yes, I am stressed. But, for none of the normal reasons.