I just finished reading a post from my friend Jessica. She tells the terrible story about a predator in the refugee community she works with in Texas. This man preyed upon children in the community, preyed upon families who were economically and culturally vulnerable. He knew where to go.
It's devastating and unthinkable.
There is also a story of a man in the history of our community, one who left crippling pain in the wake of his abuse, even decades later.
These stories are so common that it is easy to pass over them until they touch those closest to us: the abuses in churches, the oppression and desolation of war and its fighters and innocents, the stories about children in foreign countries (most recently Syria) who continue to be tortured and killed, genocide, extreme famine and starvation, homeless families and children.
Many of these stories have the most horrifying of victims in common: children.
And we are left to ask, how can God allow children to be hurt, to be sold into sex traffic, to be abused in a foster care system, to be homeless? Where is the beauty in this?
The Psalms are full of laments about the pain of life.
Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. 3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart...
His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. 11 He says to himself, “God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees." (Ps 10)
I have no answers. And no matter what anyone says, the Bible doesn't offer answers to these questions either. Because I don't think the Bible is about answers. It is about relationships: with God, with each other, with creation, with ourselves and with our enemies, even those who do such terrible things to children.
This is where I see the beauty in such pain:
In the people who refuse to spectate or ignore.
In Jessica's and Caren's rage. In the strength of the refugee community's men who stand beside them. In the courage of mothers who have left devastating circumstances in their home countries only to be confronted with the chaos of new language, new culture and unfamiliar danger that face their children and families.
In the folks who spend their energy, time and lives to care for those who hurt. In my friend Angela's work that requires her to read through awful stories of sexual abuse so that she can better educate people about appropriate behavior.
In the fortitude of those who lament their pain and shake their fists at God.
In the God who empties the most precious part of himself for his beloved creatures, even the ones who do terrible things to each other.
I can't believe in a God that doesn't allow us to doubt and question him. When Job had everything taken from him, you'd better believe he questioned God. And his friends (Eliaphaz among them), so pious were they, rebuked him for it, telling him how God was beyond questioning.
What was God's response to Job and his friends?
“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn? 2 Do you count the months till they bear? Do you know the time they give birth? 3 They crouch down and bring forth their young; their labor pains are ended. 4 Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds; they leave and do not return...
The Lord said to Job:
2 “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy —how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.”
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has...My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. (Job 39-42)”
God blessed Job for his truth-telling. For his questions and laments. For they told more truth about God than Job's friends words.**
I pray to have the faith to question the justice of the world and even of God. And may I add to the beauty with that same rage, courage, work, strength, fortitude and self-emptying.
God protect those little ones.
*image is George Fredric Watts "Hope" from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope_(painting)
** Idea of God blessing the questions of Job from: A New Kind of Christianity by Brian D McLaren. I don't endorse all of his book but I like many of the ideas within.