Life Outside the Bubble

This morning I headed over to CNN.com to read some of the news. I am not one of those people who can watch CNN for hours (um, guys? They just said the same thing half an hour ago…..) and I only watch the local or national news a few times a week. It just makes me so sad to hear all of the bad news that is reported most nights, and I get irritated with a lot of the features that are included on broadcasts that are not news (they are opinions, or editorials, or gossip at the best, but not real news). But this morning, I didn’t want to come into NaBloPoMo with nothing to say. I thought that maybe a headline would give me something to post about.

Oh, y’all. Why did I click on the headline? There is a 21-year old man in Pennsylvania being held by police for child abuse right now. He broke his daughter’s leg and arm. She has fractures to her cheek and skull. He admits to banging her head on a kitchen counter and dining room table, dragging her out of her crib by her leg, and -this is the part that almost made me lose my breakfast- stunning her twice with a cattle prod. The baby is only a few months old, and he says this abuse started when she was just four days old.

His neighbors were interviewed, and said that they new he had a drug problem but they didn’t think he would hurt his daughter. No one suspected anything.

I’m not sure how the situation came to the attention of the authorities, and I’m not sure where the baby’s mother was during all this. There were a lot of details that seemed to be unknown or left out of the brief news video clip.

Nevertheless, there was enough information there to fill me with grief and horror, shock and anger. I led a blessed childhood – I was never abused, I never witnessed my parents fighting, I had an intact, caring, Christian family. As a teacher, I encountered a handful of children with real problems at home, but I never had to call Child Protective Services about one of my little ones being abused. I feel almost guilty for living in this little bubble of goodness and joy. The sorrow and pain that is out there sits in stark contrast to the hope and love that is in here; I am overwhelmed by the unfairness of it all.

Last night, I watched The Butterfly Effect on DVD. I’m a little late to the game – this film has been out for a long time – but my film viewing style has been a little cramped since the NDB came into our lives. Anyway, the movie asks if we could go back and change the terrible things in our lives, would it really make everything perfect? Evan, the main character (played by Ashton Kutcher), has the ability to revisit his suppressed memories and change the way he behaved, interact with the people around him, and set new events in motion. Each time he performs this – which he sees as heroism – he returns to find his present day altered, and not always for the better. When he prevents child abuse, when he stops a sadistic child, when he intervenes in a senseless death…. all of those things seem like the better choice. But as life plays out, things still manage to unravel. (I won’t give it away in case anyone else hasn’t seen it yet, but the film does offer an interesting resolution at the end.)

So I have these two stories in my mind this morning – one where a sick, twisted, cruel man has tortured his own infant and created who knows what kinds of lasting damage – and one where a ficticious man has the ability to prevent such things and discovers it may not really help at all.

These things are so hard for me to think about. I want nothing more than to stay in my happy bubble, to keep my eyes on my own innocent child, and to ignore all the chaos and evil out there in the world. I learned in college about this big theological question that has been debated for centuries: How can a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people? There are a lot of theories. Some say that God is like a clockmaker – he put all the springs and sprockets and doodads of our world together, wound it up, and then walked away; we have evil and hatred in the world because the clock is running down. I don’t buy it.

Personally, I look at the Old Testament story of Job. Here was a man who feared God, followed all the rules and commandments, had a blessed life – until suddenly, it was all taken away. His children, his material possessions, his health, even the love of his wife vanished. Through it all, Job wondered what was going on, he questioned God, but he never blamed or cursed God. He somehow new that God had not caused this evil in his life – God had not punished him or forgotten him. As we read the story, we come to understand that God did allow these things in Job’s life – He knew what was happening, He was right there beside Job every step of the bitter way.

I believe that God has a will for every person’s life. God has a perfect will – the things He would have us do, say, and experience if this were a perfect world. But it’s not perfect, it’s a fallen world and all of us have a free will to make our own decisions. Sometimes the decisions we make have far-reaching consequences that affect many other people. God doesn’t intervene and isolate us from those things. He allows those natural consequences to happen, and that’s called God’s permissive will. The beautiful thing about it is that through all of it, God really is right beside us. He is beside that young father, and He wants that young man to realize the horror of what he has done, because He wants to offer him forgiveness and wholeness and healing. He is also beside that tiny little girl, and He wants to show her what a Father’s real love looks like. He is also beside us, and He wants us to see the opportunity to reach out and be Christ’s hands, feet, and heart in the shattered lives around us. I can’t go back and prevent all the terrible things from happening, but maybe I can demonstrate love and compassion and kindness. Maybe the effect of good will eventually outweigh the evil. Maybe the caring will overcome the hatred. Maybe a child will recover, forgive, go on to break the cycle of abuse in their own life.

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