I have been silent for two days now, because I don’t know what to say. What kind of monster wants to kill a child?
On the way home on Friday, I debated in my head whether I should tell my children (ages 7 and 5) about the Connecticut school shooting. I did not want to scare them or to make them feel unsafe. Still, Steven and I have had many talks about not wanting to shelter our children too much. About wanting them to know what they will encounter in the world, and teaching them how to respond to and handle it all. I thought about watching the Challenger explode on TV when I was in second grade. I thought about talking to my fourth grade students on September 12, 2001 about the Twin Tower attacks. I decided that I would tell my children.
“I have something to tell you,” I said. “Something bad happened in the world today.” Their eyes got wide and their smiles faded. I told them about the school shootings and asked them if they had any questions. “Maybe those kids and teachers did something bad,” Ephraim said. In my son’s world, when you do something wrong, you get a consequence. I could see that he was just trying to rationalize it in his own way, though I was quick to correct him. “Ephraim, no one deserves to die like that. Those children and those teachers were good people who did nothing to deserve that. That man was very bad. This is what sin is. Sin is doing things that hurt other people. He was an evil man who did an evil thing, and I don’t know why.” The three of us gathered at our altar and prayed for the victims and their families. If I am going to teach my children that evil exists – more than exists – wreaks havoc – in the world, then I must also teach them to pray.
Prayer seems so insignificant to me most of the time, and especially now, in the wake of this tragedy. Will my prayers matter? Will God say no? Which mothers of the victims prayed for their children that morning, and which didn’t? And why didn’t it matter? I will ask the questions forever.
Yet right now, prayer is the only way for me to love those people. I don’t know them and I don’t live near them, but my heart breaks for every parent and child and brother and sister who lost someone. I pray with hesitance, wondering if God is really there and really cares and is listening. I pray, hoping that somehow love will get through. Madeleine L’Engle said, “Wherever there is love, there is Jesus. Known or not known, named or not named.”
Today the sky was gray, and the world breathed a collective sigh. The day fell on our shoulders, heavy and crushing. I looked around me and the earth seemed dimly lit, everything a shadow of what it used to be. In the darkness I held tight to my children’s hands, and I held my husband close to me. We will go forth, we will regain our strength, we will be a force of light that will touch every shadowy corner of the earth. Love will prevail.