Monday, December 17, 2012

God Is Already There

There are certain debates that I anticipate with every tragedy that occurs that involves mental illness and guns.

Those debates would be about gun control and availability of care for the mentally ill.

My basic opinion, to keep it short, is that there should be more of both.

But the debate that is popping up more and more, while well intended, is starting to really honk me off.

It starts with a trite little image of a sweet handwritten letter to God... asking, pleading... why weren't You there in my school?

And it ends with a reply from the Big Guy... "You don't let me in your schools."


This angers me for so many reasons!

1. It completely implies that God is a human mastermind who is making things happen to us, for us, and around us for his fun and folly.

2. It makes God seem awfully petty and passive-aggressive and He's really come a long way since the Old Testament so that seems mighty unfair to put on Him.

3. Since when does any person, any governing body, any set of rules, any set of laws have any ability to actually control where God is or isn't?

The tragedy that happened on Friday in Connecticut is an awful, senseless, unimaginable tragedy.

God was there.

God was in that school.  God was in that school for years before the shooting happened.  God is still in that school.

That's what I believe, anyway.  That's what my faith tells me.  My faith in my God tells me that God was there on that awful morning.  That the sun shone and the day was beautiful and then horrible evil began and God wept and sobbed at the horror and He held those precious babies in His arms and He took away any pain and suffering and He carried them to heaven and He brought them to peace.  I believe that He continues to be in that school and in that community, embracing and carrying the parents and sisters and brothers and spouses and friends who lost people that they loved and cherished and lived for.

No person, no law, no rule can keep God out of that school, out of that community.

I also believe that my understanding of God isn't limited to just my faith.  My faith is what works for me and what I teach to my children.  When I send my child to school, God is with them because that is what I have taught them.  When I send my child to a friend's house, Christ is in their hearts because that is what I choose to teach them.

While at that school, if my child's teacher were to spend a day indoctrinating the kids to the Muslim faith, the Jewish faith, the Catholic faith, the Baptist faith, the Buddhist or even the atheistic-lack-of-faith... I would be pretty irate.  And I imagine that if my child's teacher spent the day teaching the kids my faith's version of God and Christ, there might be some Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist and atheist parents who might be pretty honked off about it.

Think about that before you get defensive.

If your child came home and told you that Christ wasn't the Son of God.  But that they believed in God and that Jesus was a really cool prophet...

If your child came home and told you that Christ was a man who walked the Earth and made a lot of change but that He isn't the true Allah...

If your child came home from the place where you specifically sent them to learn about reading, writing, math, science, and social studies but they came home talking about God and Crucifixion and Forgiveness and Original Sin and Communion and lots of other things that each of us as individual Christians still struggle with right up until the end... wouldn't you have a hard time with that?

When you want God in school... aren't you really saying you want YOUR God in school?  And if that's what you want, isn't that what is already happening?  The God I teach my kids about is with them all day long, no matter where they are and no matter what they are doing.

It isn't that we want God in schools... it's that we want the magic bubble of His magic protection and that isn't how this whole faith thing works.  Belief in God doesn't mean that bad things won't happen.  Hanging the Ten Commandments in a hallway won't put up shields like on the Starship Enterprise.  Starting the day with a public prayer where the kids all bow their heads because the voice on the intercom says so... doesn't mean no evil will set foot in those halls.

I teach my kids what I believe.

I pray throughout my day.  I don't always stop and bow my head and kneel.  I often pause and just take a moment to open my heart to Him before I make a decision.  When I have a quiet moment, I will lift up praises in my heart.  As long as my children and all other believers truly lift themselves in prayer to God, He will hear us at any time, in any place.

God is with me all the time, and especially in the hard times.  I've lived through some really sucky, crappy, awful stuff.  And God was with me.  During really hard to survive times, He carried me.  Other times, He held my hand, or offered an embrace.  The same holds true now.  As long as my children and all other believers truly hold God in their hearts, He will hold us in the palm of His hand.

I will respect those who have a faith base different from my own.  It might mean that there are things I read or hear that I don't agree with.  It might mean that I have to broaden my mind and think outside of my comfort zone.  But one thing I'm consistently learning is that God is so much more vast than any definition that could ever attempt to be applied.  So to limit Him to just my little human definition of my little human understanding of faith doesn't make any sense.  And when I box Him in, I set up walls that keep others out.

God is already in our schools, our homes, our grocery stores, our cars.  He might be God to me and Allah to you and the Great Spirit to someone else.  I know Him as God, Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.  I know His Son to be Jesus Christ, who died for my sins and rose from the dead to conquer eternal damnation.

Hard questions come up when horrible, indescribale things happen.  Hard questions that don't have answers.  And even if answers start to bubble up, is it really enough?  Is it good enough to know the reason beyond something that truly has no reason?  I don't think so.  Hard questions about faith and God and anger and blame and pointing fingers and backlash and fear...

We want answers, we want reasons, we want blame assigned.  Guns, mental illness and God are the easiest targets.

I don't know the answers for gun control.  I don't know how to fix the issues with availability of mental health care and support of the families dealing with it.

But I know this.

No one took God out of our schools.  No one can.

God is already there.


Right after posting this, I hopped on Facebook and someone had linked to another blog post that is very worth the read and along these same lines.  Please go visit Rachel Held Evans.


Michelle@Gotchababy said...

Good good words, my friend.

This weekend the second reading, that I read to the children because it was my turn to do so for Children's Liturgy contained the phrase-

"Worry about nothing, pray about everything."
(Catholic children's version of Philippians 4:4-7)

It took my breath away.

Rebecca said...

Not yet done reading but I had to comment because of something that I read at the beginning.....God is not in a building he is in your heart and you carry him with you everywhere you go. So when I read that crap about God not being allowed in's not right. It's not true. God is always with you

On to read more.

Karen M. Peterson said...

There's nothing I can say to this except Amen.

C. Beth said...

YES. Thank you!

C said...

Such an amazing post! I wholeheartedly agree!!

Momza said...

Another reason I follow you...
You nailed this! THanks Liz!

Unknown said...

I hadn't made the connection about why the trite saying about how God has been kicked out of schools had bothered me so much. Your post pointed out the idiocy of the statement. God is about grace. He is Emmanuel, God is with us. I grew up in a small Catholic town. Everyone in the first grade was Catholic except for 2 black boys and myself. The priest walked over from the church to our public school, and he had religion classes. We, the heathen, had to wait outside of the building. We were not even allowed to sit in the hallway when the priest came in.

God was with me then. God was with those good little Catholic boys and girls, too.

I think I plan on staying off of Facebook and such for awhile because much of what I read is trite and mean-spirited.

Alison said...

I've been avoiding reading most commentaries about the Newtown shooting, but I'm very glad I chose to read this. Well said!

Katherine said...

Yes! Agree 100%!

Katy B said...

Thank you for articulating your feelings so well. I especially like, "When you want God in school... aren't you really saying you want YOUR God in school?" You've very eloquently expressed exactly how I feel about inclusiveness. Thanks again!

Mrs4444 said...

When I first heard that statement, I just gave it a fleeting thought--how dare they exploit this tragedy to make political comments. It was just dumb, and it didn't make me mad. That said, I agree with you, and I appreciate you taking the time to articulate this.