About a week after the elementary school shootings that happened last December, a local radio station interviewed parents of kindergarten students. The question they posed to those of us with little ones was this — how do you explain this to your children?
I was heartbroken to hear how many parents had no explanation at all. No hope, no consolation, no promise of something more significant and meaningful beyond a broken, sick, and hurting world. And then, one mother broke my heart even farther.
“I told my son that if this happened at his school, he should hide. He should make himself as small as possible and hide under his desk. And he shouldn’t go and help his classmates or his teachers, even if they were crying and hurting. He should stay where he was and protect himself.”
At the time, I told Wes about this, getting choked up myself. I can understand the fear, the desperation, the “mother bear” in all of us that would lash out and protect our own at whatever cost. But I can’t fathom, even as the mother of a kindergarten student, telling my child to do nothing when other people are hurting. If there could be any comfort at all for a parent in that kind of situation, wouldn’t it be in knowing that his or her child had done the humane, compassionate thing and moved beyond their own fears and sense of self to help out another child? Even if it ended badly for them, wouldn’t there be some comfort in knowing that they had done what the could to protect others?
Pretty heady stuff, especially for kindergarten students. And for first graders as well, as we learned yesterday, when the events unfolded at the Boston Marathon.
Ana sat with me as we watched the footage, asking questions. Questions that, from a theological standpoint, whether you like it or not, are actually very easy to answer, even if the person asking is six years old. Things like this happen because we live in a fallen, sinful world where people just like us do mean, horrible things to hurt others and to defy God. And it will be like this until Christ comes again, a day that we long for and eagerly anticipate.
She gets it. And she observed, rightly and rather succinctly, that “this could happen to you at one of your races, Mommy.” Yes, it certainly could. I told her that things like this could happen to any of us at any time but that we have the hope of Christ, which reminds us that no matter what befalls us here on earth, we have assurance of eternity with Him. Why would we fear anything?
And why, I asked myself, as Ana watched footage of other runners pulling off their shirts, running straight towards the carnage, and selflessly putting themselves in danger (because they had no way of knowing if there were more explosions to come) to help those who were hurt… why would we hesitate to do what we could, as we have no fear in Christ, to be His hands and feet to others, even if it puts us in harm’s way?
“Hey,” Ana said, watching what was going on, “they’re helping those people!”
“Sure are,” I said. “What would you do, Ana? What would you do if people were hurting?”
“I would help.”
“What if it was dangerous?”
She thought about this for a moment. Then said, “That’s okay. I trust Jesus. And if I die? I’m just going to be with Him.”
Praying that we would not lose our compassion and our humanity in the face of danger and fear. Praying that God would remind my heart, again and again, of these truths of security in Him, a hope for something beyond this fallen world, and a desire to obey Him in being who He calls us to be for Him, no matter what the cost…