Sunday, January 24, 2010

How do I teach what I don't yet understand?

I should be sleeping, but sometimes the only way of working through things is to write them out.

9am Sunday mornings I teach Middle School Sunday school. Earlier tonight I realized I wanted to talk about the tragedy in Haiti, and where is God in the midst of this kind of pain and suffering? But as I have been working on the Scripture and the lesson plan... I feel like the more I seek the less I know.

There are dozens of passages of scripture about suffering and enduring for the sake of Christ, but most of them are based on the idea of persecution due to faith. What about natural disasters? What about random acts of hate? I went over to my book shelf and pulled Matt Rogers' book "When Answers Aren't Enough" hoping to refresh some great wisdom or passage to help my kids understand. But as I flipped back through the book, scar tissue began to wear away, and I once again felt the sting of April 16th. This book was written in the year following the shootings and many of the experiences Matt shared were experiences I know and remember vividly.

It's funny, because in the almost 3 years since the tragedy I have talked to dozens, probably hundreds of people about what happened. "You graduated from Virginia Tech?" "Yes, back in 2007." "Oh... so were you... like there?" "Yes, I was. But it didn't at all ruin my experience at school. In fact, once the media left, things were much more stable. It was so great to see the community build around one another and come together for support." I have repeated this conversation many times.

But I think I still have so many unanswered questions! Why that day?! Why those people?! One day later and I would have been in that building, in one of those rooms at 9:30am. One change of day may have saved my life. but why?

I thought I had dealt with so many of these questions, and though I know the answers I, as a follower of Jesus, should give, sometimes they just don't seem adequate. Do I believe that in "all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose"? Yes. Do I believe that Jesus came that we might have "life, and life to the full"? Yes. Do I believe that God has plans for me that are to "prosper and not to harm, but to give hope and a future"? Yes. And I know, that death and tragedy and evil and hate are a result of sin in a fallen, broken world... but why that moment? Why wasn't it me? Why didn't the gun jam? I know that God does not produce evil, I know that God is perfectly righteous, and I know that God has far more power than Satan. So why did God not intervene on April 16th?

How can I teach what I don't yet understand? I don't know. But I refuse to shy away from the subject just because I am still learning. Tomorrow morning, I will sit with my middle schoolers and we will talk. If nothing else, I want them to know that to be confused is ok. To be frustrated is ok. To be angry is ok. Sometimes God is just asking us to pursue our questions, not to have all the answers.