photo by Kate Williams
My eleven year-old son and I started driving early Sunday morning, headed east, across Arkansas and Tennessee, in a state of summer bliss. While I spent time with a small group of writer friends, he would join his aunt in Memphis and make a trip to her farm in Mississippi.
Country music blared through the speakers as he deejayed. We stopped for snacks; we shared stories. He told the kind of jokes that make boys laugh and their teachers cringe. I asked questions here and there and marveled at this boy of mine.
In Memphis, he got in the car with his aunt. I continued toward Nashville and switched on the news. I sat in horror for the next three hours as the details of the Orlando night club massacre came through my radio. My summer bliss turned to shock and despair.
I listened to a mother recount the text conversation she had with her son, Eddie, who was inside the night club. When Eddie realized what was happening, he ran to the bathroom. His last text to her said, "He's coming for me, I think I'm going to die." She, like the other mothers, were waiting to find out if their children are among the wounded or deceased.
I thought of Eddie and his mom. How they might have made summer trips when he was eleven. How they probably laughed at fart jokes and spilled chips in the seat, too. How Eddie was still her baby even though he was all grown up. How she was the person Eddie wanted most in what might have been his final moments.
Tears welled up and stung my nose. My mind spun and unraveled at the "why's." I cried out to Jesus on behalf of Eddie's mom--on behalf of every mom and dad and child and brother and sister and aunt and uncle and grandparent and friend waiting... or maybe already knowing... what we never want to know.
In times like this, when we cannot fathom why evil comes the way evil does, many people's thoughts turn to God. For some, it's comfort they seek. For other's, it's answers. Still other's, a place to lay the blame. I know God is big enough to hold all of it and all of us.
But today, I'd like us to consider that God is infinitely more than a presence we may or may not feel or trust in times such as this.
He is Immanuel, God with us. He lives among us yes, but also in us. We are not breathing ourselves in the after math of Orlando, we are being breathed. We are not grounding ourselves on the earth this day, we are being grounded. Without our doing it.
We are more than created beings, we are sustained beings, more reliant upon and inhabited by our Creator than we realize. And it doesn't require our realizing it to make it so. We can choose of course- what we will believe and almost anything else we want to choose for our lives. We have been given that freedom by design.
And people use that freedom in beautiful ways, to love, serve, and contribute. But people also use that freedom in dark and unspeakable ways.
We are each capable using our freedom for good and for ill.
But how we use our freedom does not negate God's continual presence. Jesus dwells in us. And as things happen to us, they happen to Jesus. When suffering strikes, it strikes Him too. I believe He takes the brunt of it and we are left with only the portion we can bear (even if we can bear it- just barely).
Not only are we not alone, ever, Jesus is carrying a load of which the weight we cannot measure or imagine. Every day, for each of us. For Eddie in the bathroom stall early Sunday morning. For Eddie's mom. For you. For me.
People ask (and I've asked), "How can a good and loving God let terrible things happen to His creation?"
But what if we consider that terrible things- even those born of free will- are the very things our good and loving God absorbs the brunt of. He does not choose them, but He does choose us. And in His good and loving nature, bears the lions share of the pain.
I do not understand what happened in Orlando. I do not understand why suffering goes on the way it does. But I do understand that God never leaves or forsakes us in it. Not only is He with us, He is carrying what we cannot.
What happens to us, happens to Jesus. Because he is with us always- to the very end of the age.
Grieving and praying and believing God has so much more for us than this-
This article was originally published on The Purpose Dweller Project.