This morning I had the radio on in the car as I drove the children to school, as usual. The sound was going to both sets of speakers though, which is unusual, so the little tykes heard the reports of the earthquake in Haiti. I didn't realize they were listening at all until they started asking me questions.
At first it was the expected: What are they talking about, Mom? Where is Haiti? What happened? Were people hurt? When was the earthquake? Then Mim asked a question that stopped me in my proverbial tracks and made my heart hurt a little.
"Mommy? Where was God during that earthquake?"
"Father! I thought I had more time to work on my grown-up answers before I had to face these questions. I still haven't found my _How to be a Perfect Parent_ handbook, let alone studied the chapter on "Existential Quandaries and the Meaning of Life"!
How on earth do I answer questions for my children when I'm still asking them myself sometimes, Lord?"
But He's been talking to me about this one lately, and I stumbled through my response, trying to make it as Pre-School friendly as possible.
"Mim, God loves us very much, and He is there right now in Haiti with all those people. He was there last night when that earthquake came too. The problem is that we live in a very bad world because of sin. God doesn't make bad things happen, but he doesn't stop all the bad things from happening either. That's part of what it means to be a human on our Earth.
But we know that someday Jesus will come back, and it will all be changed. Then God will stop all the bad things, and we'll finally get to live in a world the way God wanted it to be before people messed it up."
I think the kids understood, at least I hope they did, and we moved on to other topics.
It left me a little spiritually shaky, though, I have to admit.
Then I remembered something else that has come to my attention a lot lately. Human tragedy only happens to one person at a time. When we think about the horrors of war and catastrophe, poverty and hunger, we think on a mass scale. We think of genocide and famine and earthquakes as the death of thousands. But it's the death of one. Each person caught in the middle of the terror can only lose one life, one time.
The tragedy, then, is how many people are left hurting.
And God hurts with us. At least we know He did when Jesus was on this earth. Jesus wept for the pain of his dear friends, even when he knew that Lazarus was about to be raised from the dead. He wept again for the city of Jerusalem, and what would happen to it, even though he knew that those same people would be screaming for his death and enjoying his pain in a week.
If God does not choose to deliver our world from all terror and pain, yet, then so be it. Men will continue to die, one at a time, and it will be no less a tragedy when one man dies than when thousands do, because they each lost only one life.
Those of us who are left, then, will wrestle through our fears and doubts and anger, and when we're out of breath and crying to God, "Where were you!" we'll find out that He was never gone. He is still there with all the strength we need to get through our one life, our one vapor, our one time.