I, like so many of you, have been struggling to process the terrible tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last week. I, like many of you, have read and wept at news stories, videos, blog posts that have crossed my Facebook feed and shown up on the blogs of friends.
It’s at times of tragedy that we often look inward and upward, trying to find some solace in truth. Sometimes we find ourselves turning upward, as Max Lucado (Christian author and pastor) said, with deep, poignant questions for — and about — God.
“This is a time to go deep and pray,” says Lucado. “If you have a problem with God, shake a fist or two at him. If he’s God, he’s going to answer. And if he’s in control, he’ll find a way to let you know.”
I appreciate how Pastor Lucado also notes that we have to avoid extremes of either suggesting that there are easy answers or no answers at all. And in a time when shock and grief are raw and real, of course just allowing time and space for that grief is critical. We’re seeing people deal with that grief in many different ways — from discussing gun control and mental illness to angry rants about religion (or the lack thereof) in schools. And, of course, there are those who are clinging all the more tightly to their faith, and openly expressing that faith. I think before engaging too much in discussions, we can allow some space for people to process this as they will and see it all as part of the process.
But I do have a plea in the midst of the grief process. Let’s not forget the children. I’m not just talking about the ones who were killed, but the ones all around us. I think we as adults can sometimes think we have more answers than we do, and can miss the powerful, simple truths that can come through the eyes and love and simple faith of a child.
A beautiful story shared by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland comes to mind. A family was struggling and praying for the healing of their son and brother, Jimmie. As the mother of the family came home one day from attending the temple,
“four-year-old Katie ran up to her with love in her eyes and a crumpled sheaf of papers in her hand. Holding the papers out to her mother, she said enthusiastically, “Mommy, do you know what these are?”
Sister Lewis said frankly her first impulse was to deflect Katie’s zeal and say she didn’t feel like playing just then. But she thought of her children—all her children—and the possible regret of missed opportunities and little lives that pass too swiftly. So she smiled through her sorrow and said, “No, Katie. I don’t know what they are. Please tell me.”
“They are the scriptures,” Katie beamed back, “and do you know what they say?”
Sister Lewis stopped smiling, gazed deeply at this little child, knelt down to her level, and said, “Tell me, Katie. What do the scriptures say?”
“They say, ‘Trust Jesus.’” And then she was gone.
Sister Lewis said that as she stood back up, holding a fistful of her four-year-old’s scribbling, she felt near-tangible arms of peace encircle her weary soul and a divine stillness calm her troubled heart.
As we hug our children a little tighter, may we also get down at their level a little more often and hear what God might have to teach us through children in the face of our tears and trials — whether it be grieving this recent tragedy (from afar or more personally) or dealing with other griefs and burdens that are part of this mortal experience.
I think this may be one of the best ways we can honor the precious lives that were lost — to try to be more, as the Savior implores, like little children.
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In the spirit of sharing music, I wanted to share two pieces today.
One is called “Eyes of a Child” by Bryce Newbert. You can listen to it here.
I also wanted to share this video by Raymond Campbell, with music by Kurt Bestor. The video description says the following:
“In loving memory of those who were killed in Newtown, Connecticut. Flavored with pictures of my own children at the end to remind me just how lucky and blessed I am to have them in my life.”
May we do what we can in our own homes and circles of influence help make the small worlds of little children a better place to be by how we love and cherish them. It’s not just guns that rob little ones of life. So do angry words, too-busy lives, and a lack of truth and love.
And here’s one more link, a personal Christmas story of grief and grace from Elder Holland’s life.