These are the times when we want to have and to give answers. A 17-year-old boy goes on a shooting rampage in his Ohio high school. We ask “why???” His act leaves three dead and others wounded. Again, we ask “why???” A community mourns. Families are broken and shattered. We wonder how they will ever rebound, recover, and live out the rest of their lives in the midst of unimaginable loss.
Over the past few days I’ve watched as the all-too-familiar parade of pundits and experts exploit the moment to grow their audience, develop their brand, launch their 15 minutes of fame, or promote a book. But if there’s something we should have learned over the years of dealing with school violence it’s that we should have stopped trying to find easy answers and simple solutions/explanations for stuff that is incredibly confusing and complex. Yes, there will come a time for people to get their heads together to process lessons learned about prevention and how to do things better in cases like these. But for now, I wonder if the best thing might not be to just remain quiet and to listen.
My good friends Rich Van Pelt and Marv Penner have way too much first-hand experience in dealing with this kind of stuff. Something I’ve heard them say over and over is that those who are involved in this kind of stuff – the victims, the kids who were in the school, the parents, the teachers, etc – all need space to tell their story. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of trauma knows just how important this is. I’m not sure how it works. I just know that it does. We need to listen as those who were there tell their stories over and over and over again. They need to.
We also need to listen to the One who weeps the most over the events in Chardon. Yes, in the midst of all the brokenness, God was there. He’s still there. He’s there for those who have dropped their hands to their sides – like the Psalmist of old – as they lament this painful reality. . . looking to him in confusion and loss as they say, “OK God. . . we’ve got nothing here.” And lest we jump in, supposing that we are well-equipped to speak for God, perhaps the best reality we can convey at a time like this is that there are things we just don’t know or understand.
I’m guessing there are many brothers and sisters in the Chardon area who are stepping up to exert a faithful presence in the midst of this chaos. . . something they never imagined having to do. The rest of us should be serving like Aaron and Hur. . . holding up their arms by asking God to work in them and through them in the midst of these difficult days.
In a few days, the media frenzy will stop and Chardon will be off the map for most of us. But for those who are there, the dust will be flying for a long, long time. Let’s remember to keep these people in our prayers. We are broken people who have to deal with brokenness. Sometimes, that brokenness is very extreme. Thanks be to God that He is.