It appears all too frequently: an account of a child horribly abused, tortured or raped or murdered or all three. There’s one in the news right now. I’m not going to link to it—if you’re in the US, you’ve probably seen it; if not, well, just take my word for it that it’s horrible, and you can probably supply an example of your own. This little girl’s body was found in a plastic storage box washed up on an island off Texas, and the police called her Baby Grace for a while, until investigation established her identity and put her mother and stepfather in jail. But I find it very difficult to find any grace in this story.
I wrote Sunday that “Meaningless and severe suffering is almost intolerable to contemplate....” This is the sort of thing I had in mind. I’m not a saintly person; there are all sorts of crimes I can understand, maybe even imagine myself committing, if I were pushed hard enough: the ones that involve losing one’s temper, and even the really stupid and pointless ones, the sort that seems to happen around here every now and then, when two acquaintances get into a drunken argument and one ends up shooting the other. But I will never, never understand how anyone can deliberately harm a child.
I must believe that there is some meaning in what happened to Baby Grace, but I certainly don’t see it. On the way to work this morning I was listening to the Irish band Solas. Not looking at the song titles, I was surprise to hear them covering the Tom Waits song “Georgia Lee,” which is about a murdered girl.
Why wasn’t God watching?
Why wasn’t God listening?
Why wasn’t God there
For Georgia Lee?
I believe God was there, and watching, and listening. I even believe he felt the pain of Baby Grace. We tend to think of him as being above our suffering, but I think rather that he feels every pain in the universe, but can bear it without any diminution of his joy, because while the pain is finite his joy is infinite.
So I’m left with the question “Why didn’t he stop it?” And no answer comes. I, and you, are left with a simple and stark choice: we can either believe there is some meaning here, or that there is not. Neither reason nor evidence can supply an answer for us. It’s as close to a pure choice of the will as we can get—a pure act of faith in the Crucified, whose suffering also appeared meaningless when it happened, if the answer is yes.Pre-TypePad