JJ — The following column, posted with permission from my friend Bruce Wallace, appeared in the Wednesday, July 11, 2012, edition of the Boone County Journal. Bruce’s column was a response to the July 4 deaths of Ashland siblings Brayden and Alexandra Anderson, who were electrocuted while swimming at Lake of the Ozarks.
I have a special affinity for independent publishers of weekly newspapers. Bruce is cut from the same kind of newsprint that shaped me. And, as the scribe for southern Boone County, he is charged not only with chronicling the lives and events that shape the area’s history, but he’s also responsible for speaking into the collective hearts and minds of his community, even — and maybe especially — when words seem so inadequate.
This is all he wanted for a bio: “Bruce Wallace is the editor of the Boone County Journal in Ashland, Mo. He enjoys paddling his canoe on Missouri Rivers with his wife.”
News that shakes my faith
By BRUCE WALLACE
I didn’t go to church on Sunday.
Sure, I should have; but to tell you the truth – I was a little upset with God last week.
OK, maybe “angry” would be a better word.
How about “outraged?”
This was no little snit. I got the worst of possible news on July 4 and I, like so many others in our community, was horrified.
“How could such a thing happen?” we asked.
“Why would Alex and Brayden be taken from us like that?”
No, this was no high school-like “I’m so mad at you I’m going to ‘Unfriend’ you Facebook fit.”
For me this was real live hostility.
Was I the only one?
Probably. It is a failing of mine. Getting truly ticked off at God is not likely the best reaction, the idea of a lightning bolt striking is humorous – but I haven’t been in the mood for humor.
I have been brought up to have strong faith in God and have been so fortunate, yet, when disaster strikes – I’m less than a strong Christian.
I can say the right words to everyone and share their grief appropriately, but when I’m all alone, I have a few choice words for Him.
The tragedy shook Southern Boone parents and youngsters to their very core last week. It is the kind of tragedy that you read about happening somewhere else. And it seems to always happen … somewhere else.
Regardless of where or how it happens, children should not be taken from us so soon.
And whom do I see about that?
Therefore – and I know it is wrong and I know my mother won’t appreciate reading this – I had some very unkind things to say to God.
Like so many through the ages, I just couldn’t help but wondering where was He when we needed Him on July 4?
And, of course, that is not the answer. Anger is not the answer.
For me, the true answer came when I saw where God really was in our community last week.
He was in the parents who organized efforts to help the Anderson family move forward, one day at a time.
He was in the voice of the mom who told me she and her sons would be working to help Garrett Anderson heal the void of losing two siblings.
He was in the grace and kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson as they talked to kids at New Salem Church and tried to help them with their grief.
He was with the dozens of students who poured out their grief on a Facebook page, determined to never forget their classmate and to honor her memory.
He was in the hand of the friend I talked with at the grocery store. After exchanging a few words about our grief, that friend gave me a pat on the back and we agreed with each other that our community would be OK. It was a strong pat on the back, a hand of reassurance that I needed.
As I moved past being angry, I opened the Anglican Book of Common Prayer to these words:
“Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding: Graciously care for the Anderson family in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come. Amen.”
What else can be said?
What we can really say is that there is no way to make any sense of all this.
I turn a few pages in the Prayer Book and read again a passage that has sustained so many:
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want …”