When I was in Kindergarten, I watched as the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded on a live feed in front of millions of school children. And innocence was lost.
Throughout my high school days, our small town high school saw an extraordinarily large number of deaths among our students- nearly a dozen over four years from a high school that had about two hundred and thirty. And innocence was lost.
In November of 1999, I was awoken to a fearful call from my mother, making sure I was not on the Bonfire stack that had fallen the night before on the A&M campus. Twelve students lost their lives, many more injured, and a university culture was forever changed. And innocence was lost.
Less than two years later, on a clear September morning, a handful of airplanes destroyed a nation's innocence and trust- in many ways we became a nation of fear.
But what happened on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut is more than a loss of innocence. It is a total, absolute destruction of it. There have been shootings, and school shootings even, but none like this. Twenty children, babies really, are dead. Those that lived now face life having faced an act so evil, so vile, no one could imagine it even possible. I mean, who could think it possible to point a gun at one seven year old after another and shoot to kill?
And we must not forget the six adults who were simply following their calling, taking a deep breath before the week to come that was the last week before Christmas. It's a week of joy and chaos rolled into one that they will never see.
We are good at blame in America. I've heard the lax gun laws blamed. Connecticut's governor blamed violent video games. Surely some are blaming the parents of this killer- even though the mother is one of his victims. There has blame placed on schools for "removing God" from their campuses. We want to know who is at fault, we want to know that there is a reason, and we want to reason to be so far from who we are as individuals to remind us that we could never be capable of such evil.
Oh, but we are.
We are every bit as capable of such evil. But each day we choose not to act in such a manner. We fight against the subtle temptations that build up to a cacophony of urgings. We say no to the voice that whispers to us to do evil.
Somewhere along the way, Adam Lanza stopped saying no.
Maybe it will come to light he was crazy or on something that drove him to this. But I believe he could have been stopped- by himself. He chose to do this, not Friday morning when he woke up, but with small decisions all along the way leading up to yesterday.
"So," some will ask, "Where is God?" It's a good question. Why did He not intervene? Why did He allow innocent children to die physically while others died emotionally and spiritually watching their friends and teachers die? Why, on the same day in China, did He allow another twenty two children to be cut by another person wielding a knife in their school? Why, for that matter, does God allow evil at all?
It's time we owned up to the fact that it doesn't make sense, and we cannot now, nor will we ever, be able to explain it.
It sure looks like God let us down Friday. Many atheists will hold that tragedy up as an example of how there is no God. And it sure looks like good evidence.
But, then there is Vicki Soto.
I do not know Ms. Soto's spiritual condition, but she was evidence of God. She hid her students, she placed herself between them and the killer, and she took a bullet for them. She died so that they may live.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.-- John 15:13
And we are celebrating Christmas in a week and a half. I've heard so many news reporters comment on how this situation is such a painful moment in a time meant to be joyous. But we are forgetting something:
If not for the death of the innocent Jesus on the cross and His resurrection, there would be no reason for joy this season.
Yes, Jesus was an innocent like these children. Yes, there was just one of Him and He was an adult. But He was more innocent than these children. And God was involved in His death- so that we could live.
So, this tragedy does not ruin the joyous nature of the season- it reminds me of the grace of God that has before used the slaughter of the innocent to make things right.
It hurts right now- even for those far off and detached. I cannot imagine or fathom the pain in Newtown today. I will not tell them it will be alright- I will not offer them hollow platitudes or straw men to attack in the form of guns or games or "no God in schools." I will pray, I will mourn with them.
And I will remember that Jesus Himself said on the cross- "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"
It sure seems that way today, doesn't it? So, I will not defend God and His action/inaction Friday. For one, thing, He does not need my defense. For another, I am incapable of explaining God's will.
But I do know that there has been unspeakable tragedy before, and I know that He can heal us if we let Him. It will not come quickly or easily, but we can know healing and peace.
I simply pray that this tragedy will serve to wake all of us up to the frailty of life. To the brevity of it. And to the need to find hope at all costs.
And remember that often hope does not make sense. It goes against what we are able to reason and understand. And if we hold on to that strange hope, it is faith.
The kind of faith that can help us all survive the destruction of innocence.