As much as I look after him, I have in the past, seen it coming and didn’t get to him fast enough. I remember one, time, in fact that I let my son fall. He was riding up a curb on his new bike and I saw the little lip of cement that could potentially tip his bike in one direction, and I just watched it happen. I knew he wasn’t in any real harm, he had on his helmet, and the worst that could happen, did: a scratch on his knee. After a bit of clean up, and a Band-Aid he calmed down.
But at the time that he fell, those tears were streaming down his cheeks and as I scooped him up in my arms, his first words were, “I don’t want to ride by bike ever again.” And I hear that. There are many things that I don’t want to do again after the first time left me feeling betrayed. After you do something that you have gotten the hang of, and then you get thrown off, hurt, or blindsided, it takes a lot of courage do this same thing again: falling in love, trusting a friend, trying to get pregnant, getting pregnant, applying for that job, asking for help…to name a few.
And while I know that feeling, I also know I will need to keep encouraging him to try again. Because today, it’s the bike, but in twenty years it will be something different.
The recent events in Brussels and Turkey brought up such fears and sadness in my heart tonight. There are thousands of parents tonight who have to reassure their children (and themselves) to get back on that bike of trusting society and that in general, people are good.
That yes, we can and should be able to travel without fear or worry of a terrorist attack.
That we should and can welcome in our neighbor even if they are different than us.
That we should and can have the audacity to dream and go on adventures and try new things.
For those directly involved in the attacks, and even some of us who these events hits deeper than others, this will take practice. It will need to be a direct affront to these fears, and that will look differently for each of us. Perhaps, for starters it will be turning off your TV and creating a table where people can discuss these things safely. Or maybe it will be saying “hello” again to people you don’t know, or helping the person in need that you have yet to know their name. It may be taking the space and time you need to grieve, to pray and to let this all sink in.
Whatever it is, we will rally around our kids and friends and neighbors and our own psyche, and we will reassure them that they will be safe. It’s what we do. It’s what we always do.
We will need to keep encouraging, despite our own deep fears, because we want our children, our friends, and ourselves to get back up and to give society another chance. Perhaps, even on a deeper level, to give God another chance. Because, when you are a person of faith, and you watch something as horrific as these attacks unfold in front of you, again and again and again, then you may start to look for God and not find Him. You may start to question His goodness and His protection and His plan. This is normal, this is natural. But after we explore these things in our minds and our hearts, we will all land somewhere extremely different.
You see, my son has a very limited idea of who God is, and His characteristics, if you will. So when he fell, I am pretty positive that he did not begin to question the things that he does know about God. But what I am sure of is that he felt betrayed by his bike. He tried something new, and it betrayed him. After a few conversations, I knew that he was hesitant of what lies ahead for him and his future biking endeavors. His idea of what his bike was and what it offered had been changed.
On the one hand this is about as deep as preschooler old will get, and I’ll take it. Because on a totally different level, it’s about as deep as we all can comprehend feelings such as these.
There is something so devastating about a person feeling it’s ok to play God in another’s life. To decide when to end it, and when to steal innocence. I believe that the God we serve feels the same way: That God’s face in these events is one of weeping, mourning, and devastation.
The biggest question that we will face in these events of tragedy as a Christian community, or on a personal level, is “how does this change who God is?” The truth is this: God doesn’t actually change, even if our perception of Him does.
God doesn’t actually change, even if the world is falling apart.
God doesn’t actually change even if there is terror and devastation around us.
God doesn’t actually change when we see yet another shooting, horrific crime, or unspeakable event on television.
But yes, our perception of Him does. And for many of us, I think that our perception of Him should change. There are many of us that have grown up in a Christianity that has a wrong picture of God. I can’t tell you what this is for you, but I do know that a view of God that doesn’t acknowledge His complete devastation, sorrow and grieving over events such as these, is completely wrong.
There is much about God we may disagree on, but this? A God who cares for His people, who is close and personal, who is on the front lines and the first responder? This is where we come together, laying down our theological swords and acknowledge that our God is living and active. That He sees, He feels, He weeps, and nothing goes on that is forgotten or not seen.
Psalm 56:8 says: “You keep track of all my sorrows, You have collected all my tears in your bottle, You have recorded each one in your book.” And the people during this time, they would do this for one another. When someone was hurting or broken, they would sit with them and they would collect the tears in a handkerchief and they would then wring them out in a bottle so that later in life, as wounds heal, or things spring up and hurt again, they would remember these days of devastation and that they were not alone. That God, never leaves them alone.
Call it a survival technique if you want, or simply just the truth; but we need to start brining in a perception of God that includes the understanding that when horrific things happen to His creation, He is weeping. He is grabbing those tears all they fall from our faces and He is catching them. This scientist put tears of all types: grief, joy, laughter, and irritation under a microscope and found that each one has a different structure. And of course it does. A God who cares enough to sit with us, weep for His people, and collect our tears in a bottle is a God who is interested in making sure every tear that is shed is done so with purpose and meaning. He is not too high above, or too far away, but He knows how we feel, and He is next to us. It is there in the trenches He stays, comforting our souls and cleaning up our wounds, until we are ready to get back on and try again.