It was an odd Friday anyway.
I tugged the last of the laundry out of the washer and shuffled it into the dryer, darks and semi-darks all mixed and meshed together in their wetness. Tipping the bucket into the sink, dirty mop water sank down the drain and was immediately followed by the wrung-out remnants of the mop and then the plop of the damp mop head in the sink. Done.
I am not normally off in the land of the domestic on Fridays, but I led a retreat on Thursday so I switched my out of office day and began to check off the list of little, holy things. Haircut. Hang pictures. Bathroom & kitchen smelling of bleach goodness, awaiting another week's dirt.
I slathered peanut butter - the natural kind with the overabundance of oil and the pert absence of processed sugar - along with blackberry jam on a healthy slice of wheat bread and munched my way into the nostalgia of my childhood. Summers came screaming back with each contraction of the tendons and muscles in my jaw, and I remembered times with less pressing matters. No mortgages. No visible family strains. The world wide open like an early-hour lily straining to drink out of the mouth of the morning sun. I remembered. I chewed.
Though I commonly don't check email on my day off, I did on this day. Again, it was an odd Friday anyway.
I ran across a comment someone had made asking for me - for the church - for someone to explain what had happened "in CT." In these perilous days of auto-correct, I wondered if perhaps something had gone sideways. Did they mean "OT" as in Old Testament? My ears and eyes were geared toward the questions that come as the somewhat bristly God of the Old Testament takes center stage in front of a 21st Century New Testament-rooted audience, and there had been plenty flying about as of that day.
Why all the killing? Why the wars? Why the innocents?
Unconvinced that auto-correct was the culprit, I tapped over to the web and saw the headlines.
Massacre in Connecticut 27 reported dead Children Child 5 years old
I sank, literally and emotionally as I thought on this. My daughter would have been in that class. This was a school where parents trusted their children will be safe, will be cared for, where they will cheat death another day under the sun that browned Eve's skin - skin that would drip with the juice of our brokenness until the Kind and Good King would rise and rescue His children.
I hopped in the car, the smell of an odd spring wetness in the air even though we were three candles into the season of Advent, and turned on public radio. The avalanche began. Gun control. Mental health. Tragedy. Travesty. Are we safe?
Really, someone answer me, are...we...safe?
That afternoon I picked up my daughter and hugged her differently. Tighter, closer, with more of an understanding and awareness of what the smell of sweaty school clothes and ratty cleaning garb mean to each other. Her little mannerisms became flashing beacons of hope as she buckled her belt and said:
"I had an awesome day."
Peanut butter and jelly washing from my molars. We were both innocent for a moment again and laughed at whatever kids her age find funny. I don't remember exactly, but it doesn't really matter. That's how pure it was. The light has come into the darkness, and the darkness couldn't deal with it.
We came home, fired up the iPod with some furious dance music, and we danced. When my wife returned home she found a thirty-something man and a fresh faced child dancing with the ferocity of a Broadway cast in front of no one in particular. Sweat gleaming, hearts pounding, life pouring out as we circled each other. We grabbed hands and released. We laughed. We fell down.
It was an odd Friday anyway.
There was another odd Friday, way back when. It wouldn't seem odd by the standards of the Middle Eastern world today, but for a group of men it was odd indeed. Tragedy had struck. A friend, an innocent man guilty only of irritating the powerful and loving the powerless, had been tried and executed in public on a day that was the holiest of days to Him and His family. His mother, who had survived giving birth amongst livestock and scorn, watched Him die. She saw it with her own eyes and was powerless to help Him.
God made me a promise. I smelled His tiny head at one point. I thought He was safe. I thought He was holy. The shepherds. The astrologers. Those were the days.
It was an odd friday anyway.
But those men, those friends of this enigmatic carpenter Holy Man were visited as they travelled. A curious companion, walked the road with them and listened to their lament. They had lost the core of what they loved, to an evil world, in the blink of an eye. The purest white forcibly submerged in the piston-aged oil of evil.
"This had to happen, you know," the companion said. "Why?" they asked. The companion began with the first covenant, the Tanakh, explaining what the Messiah would suffer and why.
Then He went to their house and ate. Then it became clear. Then they saw Him.
Dead? No. Living. Yes, but living differently. Above the evil, or rather through the evil life came forth.
So that when safety would fall away, when tragedy would befall, when the innocent would one day become the prey of the evil and broken and fractured, there would be another story being told.
One where death dies. One where we see each other again. One where the faces of innocent children shine like the sun in the playground of their maker. Parents will wrestle with God, gnarling His face in their minds for His carelessness to them. They will curse His motivations, hate the unknown within the known, and they will hear the bumper-sticker platitudes about "they're in a better place." They will choke down well-meaning casseroles and then walk into a bedroom filled with hopes and dreams taken too soon.
What does one do with a teddy bear who will never have the blessing of being outgrown?
They will look for answers. They will look for life. They will look for someone who died to try and make sense of why anyone dies so young, so innocent, so good. Presidents will weep, pundits will roar, and a nation will pause with flags middling in the breeze.
Lord, help us see you and see hope where there is no reason in our minds and hearts for hope at all.
Help me, Father, to make sense of what has happened in light of what you have done to death.
It was an odd, hard Friday. But I believe in a brilliant, blinding Sunday. Help my unbelief.