"A Day in Spring"
Throughout much of the day yesterday, those of us who live in Southern California received regular news updates on a terrible tragedy that happened here last Thursday evening. A Fed-Ex truck crashed head-on into a tour bus filled with high school seniors, both vehicles exploded into fiery flame, many were severely injured and ten people died horrible deaths.
What made this tragedy so much worse was the fact that the kids on that bus were on their way to visit a potential college. The teenagers were primarily from low-income families. Many of them would be the first in their families to attend college. It was an occasion for great celebration- hope, potential. And then in one fiery instant, it all ended in a tragic fiery explosion.
In an interview with a local reporter yesterday, a teary parent of one of the dead youngsters sobbed, "They were all such good kids, so smart and so beautiful; and we are good people, how is it possible that God could have allowed this to happen?"
I've been thinking a lot about that mother's tearful and angry railing against a "supposedly" loving and caring God. She was indeed voicing an age-old question uttered throughout history, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
As I see it, a whole host of assumptions underlie that cry against a loving "God" who "allows" good people to suffer.
First of all, you can't even ask the question of "God allowing" anything to happen or not happen, unless you first imagine that God is a supreme, omnipotent and all-knowing "Divine Being" - a Divine Being who has a master plan for the world and for each and every person on it, a Divine Being who monitors and controls the master plan -making it all happen.
As I reflect on it, an inherent part of this "divine plan" is that the "just," and the "good" people are rewarded with good fortune, and the "bad" are the ones who are supposedly punished.
So, if you go to church, say your prayers, do well in school, obey your parents, play well with others, stay out of gangs and get into college, you expect to be rewarded for being good. You certainly don't expect to be on a bus that crashes and explodes into a fiery inferno.
So when bad things happen to good people, everything unravels. Atheists say things like, "How could it be possible for a supposedly loving God to exist and then allows such a tragedy to happen?" Believers wonder why they have been abandoned by the God to whom they have been so faithful.
As for me, I never ask those questions when tragedies like this happen. I see it all in a very different way.
I think that a bus filled with great kids with lots of potential crashes on a highway because "accidents happen." This isn't part of any master divine plan. "God" is not some omnipotent superpower that either makes this kind of stuff happen or prevents it from occurring. And whether you are good or bad has nothing to do with it. The bus crash was an accident-maybe a mechanical failure, maybe human error. It just happened, and there was almost nothing anyone could have done to either predict it, control it, or avoid it. It happened.
But when that horrible accident did happen and those precious kids were killed, it wasn't just a tragedy that happened to strangers- to other people. It happened to me and to every human being. Those kids were my kids and those parents are my family because we are all in it together. We all belong to one another, all woven together as strands in the cloth of life.
So where was "God" in it all? If God didn't cause it or prevent it, was God just absent and indifferent about that fiery crash on a California highway? Hardly!
"God" is intimately abiding Holy Presence; "God" is the ever present energy of love always in the midst of the flow of all life. "God" was on the bus, in those flames, in the tears, in the pain. "God" is in the sadness of so many dashed hopes. "God" abides.
As I sit in my garden on another glorious spring day in the desert. I grieve for my lost children, and I mourn with my family who suffered such great loss.
I am also filled with hope - never abandoned by an intimately dwelling, always abiding Holy Presence.