Thursday, April 19, 2007

Happiness on the heels of tragedy...

I have not watched any television coverage of the news coming out of the tragedy at Virginia Tech earlier this week, but just in reading a few of the articles posted online, have much to think about and say to this topic. It is horrible. It makes no sense, and what is sometimes the hardest thing about this type of reality, is that there are more questions than answers when it's all said and done.
I've been there. I was touched by the face of evil in my life, causing me great pain and death even. I had no 'control' over it when it came; I had no warning that it was coming; I had no way to protect myself from its 'mission'; I had no reason to believe that evil lurked around the very corner of my life as I sat and ate Sunday brunch with my family. It was the most 'ordinary' of moments in my life. I wasn't "seeking adventure", or "asking for trouble". I hadn't 'enlisted' for anything dangerous; I hadn't any reason to believe that my life could be touched by horror.
Yet it happened.
Just as the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre were 'touched'. Just as others were touched by the DC sniper, just as those individuals we watched who met their fate on the morning of September 11, 2001.
It used to be that we 'saw evil' in more expected places. We had names for these places and people behind them... most people could choose to 'stay away from the bad parts of town', and in so doing, avoid the evil that lurked there. It used to be a choice to 'entertain danger'. People, especially youth, would seek adventure and put them selves at risk of harm and toy with death. What seems to be happening in greater frequency, here in our very own nation, built on freedom and opportunity, is that we are coming face to face with the reality that nobody is really ever protected from death and evil, not even as we go about our so-called everday activities.
Who could have predicted one morning not so long ago, that several young girls would meet their fate in a humble Amish schoolhouse. Or that those at the 'pinnacle of the ladder of success' in their offices on the top floors of the Trade Centers wouldn't stand a chance at surviving it's grip.
Some happened to be out shopping and enjoying the more leaisure side of life one afternoon at a Utah mall, and suddenly there it was- evil and danger and death- without warning or cause.
It is these types of 'random evil and death' that I have contemplated for hours on end in my life; the very evil and senseless violence that claimed my daughter and forever changed the way I see the world.
That is where this post comes from- from the very depths of the questions that my heart has asked and vented about and screamed and shed buckets of tears over. They are not easy questions to ask- the why's and the how come's, and didn't anybody see 'something' so as to avoid this pain and horror. I've asked the hard questions- the ones where you look at yourself wondering where you went wrong to be touched by such evil and randomness; questions of what could I have done differently, and how can I make certain this never happens again. There are intense emotions involved when asking such questions, and out of those feelings I searched for someone to 'blame' for such evil; I needed someone or somewhere to direct my anger and grief and hurt. My pain wanted to point a finger at the "source" or root of evil. Even as authorities retrace steps and try to come up with some sort of 'answers' as to what led to and was behind the rage and randomness of the Virginia Tech massacre, so it was with me in my life. I was reeling with questions and pain.
Herein lies both the "good news and bad news". In my own experience I found that there really weren't any easy answers. Even though in my own situation the cause of my tragedy and Teagan's death had a face and name, there were still questions that had no answer. It was maddening to me at times; I couldn't come to a point where I could say this is why the reality of my life is the way it is or that what happened occured for this reason. Or as a result of this. Or that. For some people these are some of the same questions and pain they feel- only as a result of cancer, or unexplained sudden death from anything- from heart attacks to car accidents. The questions come no matter the source of pain.
What I found was that the more I asked the hard questions, the less the sense it made to me. The more the authorities discovered about the one who brought me such pain, the more questions I had. It seemed to me to make less and less sense, rather than offering solace and relief. I found that the unanswerables started to consume my thoughts and time and in so doing, caused more pain and is what started driving a wedge between Chip and me. It is why I would fall apart simply going to the grocery store to pick up a few items- my world didn't make sense...and was bleak as I watched others going about their 'normal lives'. My looked like theirs, but had been tainted by death and evil.
In the segment we taped with Oprah Winfrey, when asked about if I wanted to know why this happened in my life, I answered, "When you ask why too much, it brings you down....there are no answers sometimes".
That's the "bad news". The reality is that sometimes we simply have no answers. It is at this point that often times people start to blame God for what has happened. Others can't understand "why bad stuff happens to good people"...which for me to give you my thoughts on that topic would probably require that I write a short book. It is this very point that many of the victims' family members are finding themselves as they awake to the nightmare of the reality of their lives- many are asking themselves, "now what?" and "where do I go in life from here?" and "why me?".
This is where the "good news" comes in. It is where I had to turn from asking questions and seeking answers, to surrendering myself to the reality of what happened. It meant I had to seek a higher purpose and desire to live in light of heartache, and to accept the fact that there are reasons to the why's and what if's and how comes...I just may never grasp them.
It is where my faith begins and ends- the very definition of faith...when life doesn't make sense, I choose to believe. I do not know why evil and unexpected death happened in my life. I do not understand it. I do not like the way it caught me offguard and in the midst of living a quiet, unassuming life. I do not like that I had no choice in the matter- or that it came at me with such force that nothing mattered to me seemed utterly meaningless.
Faith doesn't ask that we like the things that happen to us. Faith doens't mean I can't feel angry or question why. It doesn't mean life will look be perfect. Faith only requires that I believe. I found that with faith, all things really are possible! Even happiness and joy in life, that at one point in time held only pain and sorrow. My faith has been stregthened in my pain and weakness, as I have had to lean on God and in Him alone find comfort and peace. In God's Word, I am promised comfort in times of grief; I am offered Hope for the future; I simply have to trust that God IS true to His word. He is showing me that I do not need to fear the random evil and pain that touches all of us in this world- we all face certain death. We need not live in fear- no matter how or when it may cross our paths. We can live with the assurance that God's promises are true; that His ways "are higher than ours" and that "He will make all things new". Therein lies the reality that we can all live with happiness and with peace. God is most certainly in control. We may not understand His ways, or His timing...but that is just the way things are in life. It is not ours to know. How silly to think that we could or even should be able to make sense of things of this world...we are not God.
I think of a recent illustration I heard on this very subject. If you are a parent this is more easily understood, as it is a picture of God as our Father- all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful. As in our own lives, sometimes 'bad things' happen to our children. Sometimes they just happen (think about getting the flu, or falling off of a bike and getting hurt); we do not cause them. Sometimes we bring them on our children "for their own good"- think of immunizations or "making kids eat their vegetables". They may not like that we cause "suffering", but from our perspective, we are doing certain things or allowing certain things for their very good- out of our deep love for them.
So, even though we could tell them they are getting shots to prevent disease and sickness and undue pain in their lives, children can't understand and process that. Even though they fall off their bikes, we allow them to do so, in order that they might grow and learn and experience the thrill of riding a bike without harm later on. Although we didn't 'sign them up for the flu, or bring it upon them', it happens from time to time simply because there is good and evil in this world. It has been that way from the beginning of time. So it is with us and faith. We can choose to believe that God is who He claims to be. We will never fully know the mind of God, and it is not ours to know. BUT, we can trust Him to be faithful and true.
That is what I have done in my life. I hope that people who are wacthing such events as all the random tragedies in just the past few months in and around our own nation, don't point fingers at God, or fall away from their faith as a result of evil. But instead, use it as an opportunity to cling to God, to seek His face, to grow their faith, and to find that there is so much more to life than simply going about our day to day routine. There is Hope for eternity, and life is our journey toward that end.

CLick this link for one of my current favorite songs, which says what I cannot put into words here. . ."You Never Let Go" by Matt Redman.


patterns of ink said...

Just getting ready for "lunch break" and I wanted to thank you for the good input in last night's "Why Bloggers Blog" Part III-A post.
Then I read this insightful post on the news of the week. You're right. Making sense out of senseless acts is beyond us, but maintaining our sensibility, with God's help, is within reach. You and Chip and your dear family are proof.

Anonymous said...


Trenton loves that song. It is so amazing to here a little two year old sing, "Lord you never let go of ME!"


Tiff said...

I've been checking in on your blog since I saw you at the MOPS group here in Gaylord-- and I just thank you. I know you blog for yourself. But my husband and I just moved here from Blacksburg Virginia. I was a graduate student at Tech last fall. He worked on campus- I worked on campus. My family is there, my friends, my coworkers, my classmates. We don't know why God brought us to Gaylord Michigan. Why we left the comfort and proximity of family and friends to start a new life in small town Michigan. I trust God has planned it all. All I can do is trust in God's design.
Out of all of the connections we have to the University we lost- No family, no friends, no classmates. Our list includes one man, a professor that my husband had never met- but had a connection to his work. I THANK and PRAISE God. In all honesty if this had been in the same building on Tuesday- I wouldn't be able to say I hadn't lost classmates. If he had gone in the building next door- where my office was- I would have lost coworkers and family. I know there is hurt for the families that have lost loved ones. but there is praise for those who have not. There are many students who are professed Christians on the list- and I pray each day that their families would hold onto that faith and other people would be ignited for Christ through this. I'm sorry to to "blog" on you- you're writing is an inspiration. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

i'm trying to refer to your past posts re; 'joy', and when i click on 'joy', nothing happens.
can you help me?

Gigi said...

jody.....i really needed this today...


you have nailed it right on the head...just perfect...thank you so much for the inspiration!

love you girl! xoxoxo gi

Melody in MN said...

Hi Jody,

I've really been enjoying reading your blog in the last week or so. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts with us. I really appreciate your perspective and the truth which flows from your mind and your heart. I emailed you last week and I hope you got it! :) You're an inspiration.

Blessings to you,
Melody in MN

Allison said...

I'm speechless, thank you!

OP SuZ Q said...

Thanks for caring Jody......! You are so right.......

Susan - VT '83

laurakirkland said...

I am fairly new in the blog world. I clicked on to your blog from Adreienne's blog. I know nothing about the scrapbooking community although I am an artist. I layed awake during nap time today thinking about your "scrapping dare" thread. I have a Teagan and a Brock.... Zoe, age 2 and Henry, 6 months. I am a spirit filled christian and am struggling with some post partum depression. I have always wanted at least 4 kids, yet am overwhelmed with physical exhaustion right now. I constantly think about what I would do if something happened to one of my kids. Your blog has taught me that I am not in control and I ultimately have to lay my children at the Lord's feet and trust Him. I have also witnessed the Lord using the death of a child in your life and others to strengthen and refine and press the wine of "pure joy" out of the grapes of tragedy. This gives me comfort and strength to trust. I guess I wanted to make a comment on the "not so anonymous" people who criticized you on that thread. You need encouragement and support from your community and family. I feel the "Jody focused" comments are very immature. Clearly, those people must be greiving the loss of Teagan, too, but they've got it all wrong. Teagan needs no sympathy, she is dancing with her king. You are the one still here on earth working out your salvation and healing with fear and trembling. Be encouraged and strengthened. Anonymous: Please realize that words have power to build up or tear down. Don't tear Jody down for the victories she has had in learning from her tragedy. We must build up, pray, encourage, and love.

MrsT said...

It is nice to see that someone actually cares about the things going on in the world today!

I for one, can't seem to find out why deep down things like this don't bother me. Perhaps it is because they don't affect me directly.

Perhaps it is also because I feel that if something like that also happened to me, no one would give a flying fig (please pardon the expression) about poor old MrsT.

Oh well. Your blog is sweet, just like whipped cream straight outta the can!

Jennifer said...

A favorite song of mine as well, and it sums up how grateful I am for a God who is there despite the evil around us. Your blog is inspiring, encouraging and profound. Thanks for your bold witness!