For those who live there and know the people, the greatest tragedy of last Friday’s school shooting in Marysville, Washington is that there was a shooting at all; that people died; that parents are aching for their children; that teens are weeping for their friends; that a community is reeling with questions; that a place once thought safe and secure has been ripped open, exposed, and rattled to its inner core.
For everyone else, the greatest tragedy of last Friday’s school shooting in Marysville, Washington is that it has already become last week’s news; that we have moved on to the next shocking and shattering event; that the names and details have started becoming vague; that we have become so accustomed to hearing about such things that they are identified by place rather than by people – Columbine, Virginia Tech, Marysville.
As onlookers, our inherent tendency is to gawk, then move on. It is how we cope. It is how we survive. It is how we avoid having to make sense of a world that is very, very broken – not just over there, where a tragedy took place, but also right here, in our own hearts and souls. For we have all hated. We have all been angry. We have all been frustrated. We have all felt helpless. We have all felt hopeless. We have all hidden the way things really are, down there in the depths of our selves.
In other words, we are all capable of doing unspeakable things. It is the human condition. It is the truth of who we are, deep down inside, where dark things that should be thoroughly routed and ripped out are instead left to rot and fester or even take root, luring us to tend and care for them with all due diligence.
Someone from Marysville – someone who is understandably grasping for hope and grace and light from a place of desperation and despair – said of the healing process, “We just have to reach for that human spirit right now.” Which sounds lovely and hopeful and true.
Unless the human spirit (selfish and proud and greedy and false) is infused with the Spirit of God (loving and humble and giving and true) there is nothing in it worth reaching for. The reality of the human spirit in its natural state is undeniable. The world screams its reality every day, providing irrefutable evidence for sin and evil.
And yet we also see glimpses of goodness – moments of undeniable grace and love pouring out from hearts in the worst of circumstances, unexpectedly reflecting the light of Christ in the shattering darkness. Those glimpses of grace do not emanate only from people who follow Jesus. And people who follow Jesus do not always reflect the light of Christ. The reality of the world and our hearts is not so easily pigeonholed into neat categories of behavior and belief.
Still, I know this to be true. The only true and lasting hope in life will never be found by reaching for the human spirit. It will only be found in seeking and surrendering to the one true God who – miracle of miracles! – deeply loves and freely redeems a world of undeserving people.
We are all the least deserving of such grace. And yet we are all showered with it, daily, infinitely, thoroughly.
I don’t know how to rightly remember the tragedy of Marysville. I don’t know how to carry all the pain and suffering and horror of this world. I don’t know how to honor the victims. I don’t know how to encourage the survivors. These things are far beyond my wisdom and comprehension.
I only know this: hope and healing are found only in Christ – perhaps not quickly (especially in the deaths of children), and maybe not fully (in the now, that is, but absolutely in the not yet). But assuredly, they are found there. And only there.
Marysville has tasted the bitterest of sorrows. We should all ache for the communal loss of life. We should also all look deep inside ourselves, not to find answers, but to face truth.
Come, Lord Jesus – for we need you more than we know.