Does lightning strike twice? Apparently so. Yesterday a well-known family in our community got into a terrible car accident on their way home from vacation. Five of them are in the hospital, and their 16 year old son, James, passed away at the scene. This same family lost a child to a drowning accident less than a year ago. With Charlie's death, they openly grieved through a family blog and on facebook, as well as allowing the local newspaper to print some of their heartwrenching journal pages. Their faith has been an anchor. Now a fresh wave of grief is upon them, on top of injuries, hospitalization, a world that they were slowly navigating has been turned irrevocably upside-down.
I know it's a tragic world, but sometimes the depth of the sorrow, loss and pain leave me stunned COLD. Shocked. Aching. "Again?", I say. There is always more pain to be dealt out than I can imagine. I force myself to sync back into what I know of God to make any sense of the situation. I try to integrate it with the answers I've found the past few years. The question of how He allows it is always there. The answer that this world is under a curse of pain is also always there.
Post-bereavement, I look at tragedy with a wider lens. I wonder about it from two vantage points--the earthly and the heavenly. When something like this happens, I easily see the shock waves on earth. In relative terms, the physical injuries are the easy part. I pray for strength that this group of precious people may not sink under the emotional weight of multiple shattered dreams. I pray for mercy, strength and courage for the difficult recovery that lies ahead. I pray for support to surround this marriage so that it will resolve to carry on when so much has been lost, for the sake of all that remains. I see a father who may be riddled with toxic guilt and pray for the peace that passes understanding. These people will need to be carried on a stretcher of grace and compassion for a very long time, so that in that paradoxical world of spiritual economics, they can lose and still come out ahead.
From the heavenly perspective, I wonder how it unrolled yesterday. Was there an all points bulletin issued by an archangel that said, "Urgent. Angel army required". Did they promptly report for duty, with some being assigned the task of escorting James to Paradise, some tending the injured at the scene, some helping this poor afflicted father just to continue to breathe? Did little Charlie, eager with anticipation, stand at the gates and wait for James to arrive? Perhaps he wrapped his big brother in a hug and said, "I am so glad you are here with me. Our family really will be okay. Our Father has sent reinforcements. He will enable them to use even this for His glory. We will wait for them all here, and when they come, they will see, too." Did James, now filled with joy and wonder at his new surroundings, smile in agreement and note that his little brother radiated beauty and wisdom? How does it work on that side of things, the invisible side? I hope it's something like that.
This life is an enormous messy hands-on test of faith, hope and love. My son called it "a raw glorious mess." We are all in for it, and none of us will escape unscathed. Yet even in the worst messes, I have seen that our God is like a quiet nurse, present, guiding, easing, touching, lifting, gentle. I have experienced that. He is not a traffic cop with a megaphone directing traffic, handing out tickets. He quietly gets in the mess with us. He wallows in the pain there with us. He gently tends the wounded. He bandages and applies ointments. He resets the broken places. He takes His time. He raises us up through the wreckage. He shines His light over it all. We have to wipe the blood out of our eyes to see Him, sometimes we have to call out in our blindness, but when we do, we see He is there. I have faith that He will help this family through the unspeakable, as He has helped me, because He is our help in time of need. Lightning not only strikes twice, it strikes countless times... every day, everywhere. Thankfully, when it strikes, it brings the light with it.