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Broken Mirrors – a week after Sandy Hook

21December2012

broken_mirrorMirrors are broken

Getting a clear reflection is currently difficult. A week after the Sandy Hook school shooting, it seems that people are doing what they should be doing after a crisis of this magnitude. The police continue to investigate. Appropriately, both the Governor of Connecticut and President of the United States met and spoke with survivors. Families are burying their dead, and are asking for a media reprieve. Grief counselors are on hand and connecting with families. Churches and other houses of worship have reached out to the community. Prayers across our land continue to ring out. Many a preacher, including myself, addressed their congregations this weekend to console and inspire amidst the pain and sadness. Children in Sandy Hook are going back to school. We should be getting back to “normal” if there ever is such a thing. Christmas lurks, it will be here only a few days from now, and many feel like we still linger in the shadows of last week.

Our vision remains clouded. What should we see? What should we do now?

The easiest thing to do is assign blame.

We all know it is much easier to point fingers than to stand looking in the mirror. People have assigned blame to our apparent godless society; yet the first thing people did last weekend was to pray. (I find such witness to be quite moving in a society that is supposed to be post-religious.) People blame gun owners. People blame lawmakers. People blame each other. The mirror that we all stand in front of reveals deep cracks. The image we see in it becomes increasingly more distorted.

There will be activists who want to dive right in and “fix” whatever conditions led to this tragedy.

Pleas for reform are already on the table: stronger gun control; greater lines of defense in schools and all public spaces; identifying mental illness and getting people resources; locating local support for those who need it after a trauma; re-engaging young males dis-engaged from society; seeking parenting strategies to help their children before, during and after a crisis; thinking out loud together about what all this violence means. We need to have serious conversations about each of these topics. We want some results, not just mere words that feel empty. This won’t be easy. There are problems to be solved and gaps to be covered, and different approaches to dealing with them. But the reality is that no matter how many new rules are implemented and new restrictions are enforced, neither rule nor restriction can remove the basic sin and brokenness behind humanity’s problems. I’m not saying we shouldn’t create better laws, or at the very least discuss better outcomes, but the root of the problem can’t be “fixed” in the way we too often seek to fix them.

There will be those who seek to withdraw.

I’m sure I am not the only parent this past weekend that had fleeting thoughts of homeschooling. Maybe we should all move to the country. That is why this tragedy seems so horrific. Newtown was supposed to be a safe place, away from urban problems we choose to ignore or seem too big to deal with in any concrete way. What about our communities? Are the safe? Can they be? How do we get out of here to leave those problems behind? We are not the first people to have such thoughts, and we are not the first to be disappointed that evil lurks anywhere and everywhere.

The vast majority of us will simply move on to the next news cycle. 

In a “if it bleeds it leads” culture, how long will it be until Newtown is simply replaced by the next great human tragedy?  A colleague of mine lamented on Monday how easily we get drawn into the sensationalism of one particular event, before we move on to the next storyline.  The news becomes one big distraction, and we only engage the questions they raise on the surface until the next big thing comes along.

We do not need proper blame, better solutions, safer havens or better distractions.

What we need is a savior. Come Lord Jesus Come.

Advent is a time to focus intently at a world that is broken, unsafe, and distracted, even with Christmas only days away. Rather than lamenting what could be but is not, what should be but is not, what would be but is not, because of our own sin and evil, Advent expectation calls us in the midst of our pain, suffering, injustice, and ongoing violence to wait for the one who comes to redeem us from ourselves.

In the midst of things we cannot understand, questions that remain unanswered, real events that seem unimaginable – we have a hope that meets in the most unexpected place – a child in the manger, a cross outside the city, an empty grave upon a hill. With peace that surpasses understanding, the coming of Jesus into our lives gives us the courage to carry on – where we no longer seek to fix a world that is broken or explain away its problems. Instead we proclaim a coming kingdom, a coming savior, a coming Christ. We no longer seek refuge away from pain, but seek to comfort those in the pain of loss, suffering and injustice. We no longer are distracted by surface level enjoyments at the expense of others, but give ourselves away – as bread for the hungry, as the body of Christ in the world. We stop being sensationalized, and instead we focus our attention on living lives worth living. Our questions cease becoming stumbling blocks without answers, as they are the very place where the Spirit sighs too deep for words, leading us on.

The mirror is still before us, revealing our true selves. The cracks make it only more obvious. We are shattered, distorted, and broken – made in the image of God, but unable to keep that image together on our own. Instead we are pointed to the coming Christ – who shows us our reflection but only to reveal his own. Our brokenness and sin reflect back the savior that loves this world enough, loves the heartbroken enough, loves you enough, to enter into the shards, and make us whole. As only he can make us whole, so that our reflection is no longer of ourselves, but a reflection of him living in, with, and under our lives – the light of the world banishing the darkness away.

Wherever you are today, where you are sad or outraged, determined or distracted, deeply immersed or seeking escape, the God of the universe meets you there. The Spirit calls you – to a hope that is not our own, a longing that we cannot quite name and a desire that seems just out of reach that reminds us in our reflection:

Christ is coming. Look for him amid the shards.

GTS@CCD

__________

For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:9-13)

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