Without purpose, but not in vain

What benefit was gained by the shedding of young blood at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut? 

This is a question that I have not seen probed much in the news, in blogs, or in various Facebook dialogs since this tragedy.  Naturally our questions have not surrounded the benefits of such a tragedy, because to think of possible benefits seems to be trite, and distasteful.  Instead the primary question being asked is “why?”  That is a good question, a question that many have tried to answer, and every answer seems to fail.  There is Westboro Baptist’s answer that this is the judgment of God, there are other Christian commentators that say this is the result of removal of God from schools.  Still there are others who blame a lack of gun control, while others make the claim that if gun control were more lax we would not have these problems.  Other people, myself included, have pointed to lack of understanding of mental health issues, and the church and society’s unwillingness to come alongside the disturbed to offer them real help.  All of these questions of ‘why’ are appropriate, but none of them offer anything of peace, or give us any sense of hope, or any glimmer of light into the situation.  Of course the seemingly Christian mantra of ‘everything happens for a reason’ is equally void of hope, and Christians ought to be willing, especially in the face of such a tragedy to forgo that worn out line.  In the wake of this tragedy the atheist’s line of thinking tends to gain traction… “If God is good, he must not be all powerful because he has not stopped this, or If God is all powerful, then He certainly is not good because he has allowed (thereby effectively caused) these things to happen.”  I’m not here to defend God, or even to pretend to have a cogent response to that line of thought.  What I desire to come back to is my first question:

“What benefit was gained by the shedding of young blood last week?”

This is a great and a healing question.  It is not a question in which the answer poses ‘the reason’ or ‘purpose’ of this happening, not at all.  It is a question of whether or not these children died in vain.  So as I begin to outline the ‘benefits’ gained by this tragedy, I am NOT saying these benefits are some grand divine purpose for the tragedy in the first place.  In other words, I don’t offer the remainder of this post as words to help us understand the question ‘why?’  The event was senseless.  However what I am posing here is that these children did not die completely in vain.

This past Friday countless children across America received something from their parents that they have not received in a long time.  They received hugs, affirming words of love, glances from their parents that showed that they were indeed deeply cared for.  Parents walked into their homes from work, and for the first time in many weeks even they were happy to see their children.  They dropped their coats and ran to their children and gave them the love they should be giving them every day.  We ought to give thanks to those twenty children for this; their sacrifice (however unwilling) produced a newfound love for children who are starved for it.  Millions of children received long overdue love.  I would not contend that this was worth the price those twenty children paid, but I will say that they did not completely die in vain.

This week countless teachers across this country are looking at their students differently.  Children again are being seen as something of tremendous and sacred worth, not mere pupils for teachers to educate in order to get their paycheck.  Most teachers have always loved their students, but somehow after a tragedy like this we begin to see the true worth of the students given into our care.  As the news of this was being reported I am certain that every elementary teacher in the country began to think about each of their students in ways they had never thought about them before.  Millions of students were seen by their teachers for what they really are.  Again, I would not contend that this was worth the price those kids in Connecticut paid, but will say that they did not completely die in vain.

At the national level we saw corporate weeping, as collectively we were reminded again of the value of life.  Thoughts surrounded around the protection of children, which is odd during this during the Christmas season which is marked more by exploiting the desires of children for a profit.  Flags across the country are at half-staff, churches are joining in praying unified prayers for those affected.  Even the President of the United States has read words of comfort from the scripture to bring comfort to the whole nation.  These are wonderful occurrences.  Certainly these occurrences are not worth the price paid to attain them, but they remind me again that these children did not die completely in vain.

In the midst of all this we were reminded again of what our first responders and our teachers are really all about, we are reminded of valor, and sacrifice.  Of course the price was too high to make it all worth it, but let us at least see that these children did not die completely in vain.

Let me be clear that I do not believe that the ‘reason’ for this event was to reap the above benefits I expressed.  I do not think there is a good ‘reason’ or ‘purpose’ for tragedy, I have no desire to cheapen it all with reasons or purposes.  As far as a cause, that is simple, fallen humanity in a fallen world doing wicked things.  That is what caused this, and it is sad and terrifying.

Yet despite these events being completely senseless, reasonless, and purposeless, the victims and their families at least deserve to know that their children’s death was not in vain.  These families deserve to know that the blood their children shed fertilized the fallow loveless ground of millions of homes.  It doesn’t bring them back, it doesn’t make it worth it, nothing could make it worth it, but the blood wasn’t spilt completely in vain.

While the victims ought to naturally be bitter that the rest of the nation still has their children to love, I hope they will hear the unspoken thanks of all the children who have unexpectedly found themselves loved sincerely by their parents again.  The blood was not spilled completely in vain.