There's a cynical part of me that keeps wondering if some journalist will come up with the headline "trouble in paradise" regarding the terrible tragedy at the Amish school-house in Paradise, Pennsylvania yesterday. There does seem to be a terrible, twisted irony that death and destruction can wreak their well-known havoc in a small town with such a beautifully innocent name.
I am grieving every time I hear or read about this story. Five young girls dead, several others wounded. A man who loved his own wife and children suddenly jumping off a precipice of despair when no one even realized he was anywhere near the edge, and taking all those young and beloved lives with him.
I'm feeling grateful that we don't have a television. I don't think I could bear to hear the heartbreak in the voices of the people of the Amish community and their near-by neighbors, people who thought they had given their children a safe and secure and beautiful place and way to grow up, only to see violence slam its way into even that "refuge."
All of which leads one to the sobering realization that there is no physical refuge anywhere on earth. We can plan, we can protect, we can try as hard as we can to bring up our children wisely and to build a loving community. We can do those things and we must keep doing them because frankly it's the only way to live here in the land of now and not yet, when the kingdom of God gets glimpsed only in glimmers but hasn't yet come in its fullness.
But we fool ourselves if we think there is any "safety" even in the most idyllic and ideal seeming circumstances, like a one-room Amish schoolhouse. The only safety we can really know is that our ultimate refuge lies in God, in Christ our "solid rock."
The Enemy is crafty. He can pervert the real, deep longings of the human heart (see posting below). He can deepen the void that someone already feels. He can take grief and pain and anger, all of which the killer apparently felt deeply, and twist them inside someone until they're a total mess. Until they can't tell truth from lies. Until they're ready to kill others and themselves.
The only thing that can give us hope in times like these is not a thing but a Person. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) Come, Holy Spirit, and rule this broken, disobedient world. We cry out for your mercy.
"Our heart is restless until it rests in you." (Augustine) I'm not sure I ever realized until today that the phrase is "our heart" -- plural but singular -- just as it is in the prayer book confession, when we confess "We have not loved you with our whole heart..."