“There’s been a shooting at Purdue today,” said teacher Cathy Cederholm as I finished up my lunchroom duty at St. Louis de Montfort today. “I’m checking up on all my Purdue kids to make sure everyone is safe.”
The information being released is minimal and the situation is still active at my alma mater, which happens to also be my hometown. From here, what I can do is pray for the students, professors, campus employees and passersby who might have been in harm’s way (or feared they were) today.
For the young Boilermakers who are out in the world on their own for the first time and now dealing with a lost sense of safety and security, and for their parents whose hearts stopped beating until they got the “I’m safe and I’m okay” call, there’s little else any of us could do.
Sometimes, it takes something extremely serious to help us with perspective. Other times, a tiny moment does the trick.
When my 9 year old glanced upward with that morose little face full of innocent freckles and asked me about this situation on the campus he has visited so many times, I told him that it made me sad too. Then, I just had an honest conversation with him and his 14 year old brother. I told them how we needed to pray for the victim and his family, and also for the shooter. Zach looked up waiting for my explanation on that last part. I shared how no one who understands that they are wonderfully made and truly loved by God would choose to solve their problem with a gun.
I said, “Do you think God loves the boy who made the really bad choice today at Purdue?”
“He’s probably not very happy with him, but He’s God and God always loves us, right Mom?”
“Yep. That’s right, Z.”
Most days, our challenges and concerns aren’t so incredible. For instance, when my oldest son Nick was 4, he was timid. On the soccer field, he stayed outside “the scrum” and watched the other kids fight it out. He was afraid to get hurt, afraid to fall. Learning to ride a bike was therefore a near impossibility…and his dad and I were frustrated by his inability to get out there and meet the world. We wondered if we were failing him in some way. His words were, “I just can’t do it! It’s too hard.” He couldn’t see the freedom waiting for him. We wondered and worried about him like all parents do, especially the first time around. It seemed like such a big deal.
A few days after watching us and our futile attempts with Nick and his bike, a neighbor told us (and our little guy too) about her “magic bike”. She described how her son Will had learned to ride on the “magic bike.” “I could have Will’s uncle bring the bike back from Ohio for you to borrow if you want to try it, Nick” she gently offered. “Yes, Mrs. Volpe, I would like to ride the magic bike.”
Within moments of his little feet touching the pedals of the “magic bike” a couple weeks later, the walls of fear were coming down and suddenly his world was bigger and faster—and much more fun! Freedom is delicious!!
On that particular week 12 years ago, there was both worry and then joy for my young son, Nick as he took off on the rusty old white bike shipped in special from Ohio. It was one of those life moments.
Today, I received a text message from my now 16 yr old (yes, an illegal text sent to his mom from school) wondering about the safety of Will Volpe– the same kid whose bike he borrowed those many years ago, now a Purdue Senior studying engineering.
My grandma used to say “small kids, smaller worries, big kids, bigger worries.” How true. It doesn’t really matter if they are tiny or if they are enormous, though, does it? They are ours all the same and each day we must be prepared to handle what our journey brings as best we can.
Freedom is peace of heart in the middle of the chaos
Over oatmeal and coffee earlier in the week with a girlfriend, we discussed our children. We talked of our hopes for them, the challenges and perils they face growing and maturing, and our need to trust that God will lead us all according to His flawless plan. Being at peace and trusting in God’s plan, trying our best to do His will. That’s freedom, but gosh it’s hard. It’s especially challenging for those of us right in the middle of raising young people in 2014.
As I wondered aloud that day about the school dance and the driver’s license eligibility date approaching, my friend shared with me that her beautiful and remarkably bright daughter frets and struggle so much over the issue of body image. This young lady is a gifted athlete who wears a single digit dress size. If there was ever anyone who should look in the mirror and appreciate God’s creation, it is this young lady.
How can she not delight in it? How can she fail to see how wonderfully made she is?
Her mother sees all this with clarity and not a small amount of angst, yet she seems willing to walk alongside her lovely daughter with a fair amount of peace in her heart, despite the difficulties. She is a godly mother, and to me there seems an innate need on the part of mothers everywhere to love our family by some sort of inner compulsion. It’s how God made us.
Our journey is perilous but we must take it if we want to be free.
Our children are each on their own journey, just as we all are. The important thing is that as we walk, wherever we are, that we learn to know who we are in God’s eyes.
Why? Because we aren’t the author of the story, and the only thing we can count on in this life for sure is that some days are going to take our breath away and we aren’t going to get out alive.
Who am I in God’s eyes? I didn’t know when I was 16. Or 30. I was a slooooow learner. Of course I don’t want that for my 3 boys. I’m sure you’d rather an easier path for those you love as well. UNFORTUNATELY, God isn’t big into sharing when it comes to authorship. He is the Author of Life(Acts 3:15), Author of our Faith (Heb. 12:2), Author of Salvation (Heb. 2:10).
Friends really are a gift from God and that chat felt like a God sighting along Highway Shelly. It helped me so very much as I meandered through this Tuesday afternoon.
Patience and humility are the words of the day. God makes His presence known when He wishes and appears for His own reasons. We have to be, says Fr. Robert Barron “humble and docile in his presence, ready to wait, if necessary, through long hours, days and years, prepared to hear the rush of God….when it comes.”
For the first time maybe ever, I realized today, I feel a legitimate sense of peace. I am not saying I don’t have significant things about me that I don’t like a bit. I loathe that I am sometimes more concerned about me than about others. It bugs me that I don’t get out of bed without hitting the snooze button. It irks me that I lack self-discipline, have a bad attitude towards exercise, and that I drink too much diet coke. I talk too loudly and check my iPhone too often. It drives me crazy that my pride doesn’t allow me to love selflessly the way God wishes. And seriously, what’s up with the kidneys always full of stones?
Here’s the thing. I don’t define myself anymore by what’s lacking in me, by the sins I commit or the suffering that is mine to manage while my God seems far away.
Says Fr. Barron, “When we suffer, we are like the tiny child, sadly and angrily incapable of grasping the reason for our pain, and God is like the father whose only recourse is the invitation to trust.”
Much like my sons are each the child of a crazy lady who insists they shower and occasionally eat from multiple food groups, not to torture them but out of love, I am the child of a merciful God who is wild about me. So are you! Sin or imperfection cannot be allowed to define us. That is a peace stealer and it is NOT OF GOD. God loves me because I am His. It doesn’t have anything to do with what I do or the parts that I don’t like. God loves me because of who He is–and HE IS LOVE.
Here’s my little prayer today.
We praise you God and thank you for making us just as we are. We thank you for our friends, family and all those you have given to walk alongside us in this life. Lord, we ask you to reveal your love to us and to our children in a new and profound way. Help us look in the mirror and say, “Mighty God, I know you love me.” Help me shine like the sun so others may see You through me. Oh, and Jesus…please be with all the Boilermakers who need your powerful presence tonight in their minds and hearts.
“Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8)