My family sat at red light of the intersection this morning. In fact, I’ve been there three times today. It is the same intersection that I pass each morning on my way to work and every night coming home. I felt vulnerable. Across the street, yellow police tape lined out the crime scene where an enraged shooter took out his frustrations on passing traffic.
My wife was at the HEB two blocks away from the house when she heard the news. Standing in front of her was a mother accompanied by her two daughters, talking on the phone. The woman kept saying “Anderson” and each time her voice became more and more erratic. Her daughters began crying. Ericka asked the lady what was going on. Upon hearing there was an active shooter in the area, she abandoned her shopping cart and headed outside. Parked in front of the store was a fire truck surrounded by officers in full amor, bullet shields on hand and guns at the ready. She immediately made her way to the car and drove home safely. We would later learn that Anderson was the name of the 17 month old who was shot in the face and life-flighted to Lubbock. The tragedy was on our doorstop.
Tragedies have a way of placing our faith on full alert. Christian or not, we find ourselves questioning God. How could a good God allow this to happen?
It’s a fair question. After all, God was fully aware of the incident, where each and every victim was when the bullets struck them unaware. He knew Seth’s intentions before he shot the state trooper and went on the rampage. Yet, one can not help but feel like He didn’t intervene. So where was God in the midst of all of this?
I honestly believe He was right there in the middle. Not as a cruel or sadistic, passive spectator but instead as an active Father, full of grace and love, who would come to morn Seth’s actions and the losses of the victim’s families.
I do not for one second believe that God condoned his actions, but that instead God afforded Seth the same grace He affords me every day of my life – He allows him to make my his own choices. If God is sovereign, as I believe Him to be, it is nothing short of grace to allow me to make my own choices. I can choose to love God or not believe in Him at all. I can choose to align my life to the example Christ set or I can choose to do my own thing. I can at any time curse His name, calling Him every foul thing that comes to mind with the very mouth God gave me to use.
In the midst of tragedy, we want to immediately blame God for not stopping the perpetrator. Yet, we have no problem with God allowing us to do our own thing. It might make us uncomfortable, but the shooter was graciously given a choice when he was pulled over. In fact, God was there for every decision he ever made. For every good chapter of Seth’s life, celebrating his birthdays and rejoicing with every victory. And for ever bad chapter, I believe God was actively pursuing Seth’s heart, illuminating a way out of the darkness and asking him to trust God. God is always at work.
Which brings me to my second point – there are so many stories in all of the active shootings of people who were nearly caught in the gunfire, or were hit and the bullets missed a vital organ. The whole incident ended in a gunfight right outside of a movie theater. Why didn’t Seth take refuge in the building and who knows how many lives were spared because he didn’t? We can not know or even guess at all the ways in which God was working in this difficult and dark situation. You just can’t.
All I have to lean on is the tragedies in my own life and how looking back I could see God at work time & time again. I understand, without reservation, what Paul wrote in Romans 8:28 – “God works all things together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose”.
I also know that God experienced the tragedy of watching His own son die, at the hands of his own creation for crimes He didn’t commit. And afterwards, sent his Holy Spirit to comfort us in the midst of the chaos we conspired to create. When I say I believe He mourned with those who mourned in my community, this is what I mean.
Finally, I look to my own feelings at the stoplight today. I felt vulnerable, but didn’t give into the fear. I am not going to spend the next few weeks afraid of the light turning red when I approach. God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, sound judgment, love and self discipline (1 Timothy 1:7). When you are able to give those fears to God, there is an incredible freedom found knowing that no matter what befalls you, He remains sovereign.