First of all, I apologize for the lateness of “midweek reflections” this week. But really, I have an excuse. More on that in a moment.
Two things happened this week that have taken my attention – one of great public concern, the other not so, but both with some common threads.
The accident in Philadelphia involving an Amtrak train seemed, at first hearing, simply a train off the tracks. To be honest, I didn’t pay it too much attention. But as the night turned to day, the extent of the tragedy became clear. And by now, with eight dead and many injured, it’s got my attention, and big time!
So, what happened? News reports say the train was traveling over 100 miles per hour, approaching a 50 mile per hour curve. No wonder it jumped the tracks…and no wonder the cars look like crunched pop cans…and no wonder why bodies were shattered and lives lost.
But why? An investigation will proceed, and, we hope, we will find answers. Was it the engineer? Was there mechanical failure? Was weather a factor, or even, maybe, terrorism? The questions are being asked, and we look for an answer.
Yet, even an answer won’t really be an answer. When the answer comes it still won’t really answer why. Why would an engineer do whatever… Why was there mechanical failure…
Why did this have to happen, the question we ask again and again. Why did this – or any other tragedy – unfold? And why didn’t God act?
Personally, I might be asking the same questions as the week comes to an end. Earlier on Thursday afternoon my mother was admitted to Gundersen for observation, taking up most of my day, and setting me behind schedule a bit.
OK, quick note – she is fine, probably coming home on Friday – no big crisis here!
But it might have been. And let’s face it, she’s my Mom. So let the questions begin, or if we imagine “what if,” let the imagined questions begin. What if this were a serious medical issue? Why my Mom? Why does this (whatever I imagine it to be) have to happen to her? Why might God let this happen? Why isn’t God acting?
I don’t know. I don’t know why a train jumps the tracks taking lives any more than I know why someone I care deeply about lands in the hospital, triggering all sorts of what-ifs.
Maybe God is just asleep at the switch.
OK, so I can’t answer why these things happen. But I do know that God is not asleep or out to lunch. I know because I saw God this afternoon. Several times, in fact.
I saw God over at Gundersen, in the form of a doctor who came to check out my Mom, who listened to her and who reassured her they were working to get to bottom of what ails her.
And I saw God too in the RN’s and CNA’s, in the techs, and even in the dietary aid who delivered her meal. God was there in the people who attended to her needs, and who did so with compassion, understanding, and even a smile on their face. Perhaps God doesn’t answer why, but God also doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. Instead of answers, we get God by our side!
I saw that in the train wreck too. Lots of people sprang into action to bring rescue and relief. Even a local church, in the dark, gathering items to assist the many who were dazed and confused. No answer, just God at work.
Of course, there are the loved ones of the eight who lost their lives. What about them? No answers, but lots of God. God is still with them, by their side. I know because I’ve seen it in the lives of others…and I’ve experienced it in my own life. And I have confidence that someday when I grieve the loss of a loved one, God will still be there, just as God will be there when my death is grieved.
That is the nature – and gift of God. God doesn’t just talk, God doesn’t just answer a question – God acts, bringing life and hope, all wrapped up in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Sometimes we experience God’s work in deep, spiritual, almost mystical ways – you now, those moments when we are aware that God’s presence embraces us in the midst of our weakness and vulnerability.
And sometimes it is in the moments when someone else reaches out and touches us with that which otherwise looks small and insignificant, but which through they eyes of faith is seen for what it is – God at work.
Thank God for the hands that are used to touch my life…and may God find ways to use my hands to work in the lives around me. And you too – to touch your lilfe, and to give you the priviledge of “your hands doing God’s work!”