Whenever tragedy strikes, for the young boy who has lost his dog or the recent Connecticut shooting, it's in these hollow places our theology makes itself known. We may say we are not theological, but Tozer once said that "what a man thinks about when he thinks about God is the most important thing about a man," and so we are all theological. It is in these dark moments that we think about God the most. His existence or His absence, the strong tower or the hollow void—we shout our questions out and wait for an answer, or don't. We think about God and so reveal ourselves.
Mere hours after the shooting on Friday crosses formed on the school property, candles were lit, and people kneeled down, heads bowed. Churches filled for vigils and our President read from the Word breathed words. Children singing Silent Night opened Saturday Night Live, and today a rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah circulated from NBC's The Voice.
It seems that when tragedy strikes we all find ourselves pulling at the familiar spiritual things, bringing forth faith in an agony akin to childbirth with none of the beautiful reward.
But sometimes our hallelujahs are empty because we don't know the God with whom we're pleading.
After my brother was killed, I can't remember whether it was days or weeks or months after, a family friend erected a cross, painted it white with his name on it clear: Andrew David Ferguson. My father put that cross in the ground less than a mile from where we lived. I was there when my brother died, misshapen on the wet highway, and the cross is nearly forty feet away.
I passed that cross for years and it's still there, I'm sure, overgrown with weeds and tall grass—and every time it is not a reminder of my brother, but instead my father. My father, though he tried to get there quickly from seven hours away, was not there with us on that rainy April morning. The cross is a reminder of the void—not of my brother and the tragic way he died, but of my father, the one I wanted to take care of us, explain this, clean this mess up, make sense of it.
And so in moments like these, when we are all seeking sense, building towers of thought and politics, I understand the fumbling words people say and don't mean, the beautiful heretical tributes, the plastic crosses and empty prayers, the haunting hallelujah song and the comfort we find in trite verses. I understand we are all trying to make sense of it all—using whatever we understand to make our way there.
We are all looking for a Savior in the hollow places. We are all betraying our theology of belief or unbelief. We are looking for someone to make a way, make sense, make whole.
So be gracious in days like these, hold the gospel near if you believe it is truth, and if you don't, come near, come and drink. God is not a God who promises answers, even to His children, but He does bind up the brokenhearted and set free the captive.
He was once a Father who set up a cross in a moment of unspeakable tragedy too.
If you're interested, I have a guest post up at Everyday Awe today on The Worth of a Soul.
"He shouts, breaking in, throwing his grand cloak over our unrighteousness, our unworthiness, our most tender parts and our weakest shames. She’s mine! He says. He’s mine! He says. I’m claiming this weary soul. I’m calling its worth.
A new and glorious morn."