When I was 8 years old, I went to summer camp for the first time. I believe I was at camp for five days and six nights, but at the time it felt like so much longer. I remember being homesick. I remember sleeping with a picture of my mom and dad; crease-worn and tear-stained beneath my pillow. But mostly I remember sitting on an old wooden bench beside a campfire, praying aloud to God that Jesus would come into my heart.
Today, I can see that 8 year-old so clearly. Her wild curly hair, her bruised knees. I can smell the Skin So Soft meant to ward off mosquitos. I feel her heart swell with a love she cannot understand as the Lord her Shepherd stoops down gently to pick her up, his little lamb, and whispers:
“I am here, my love.”
“You are my girl.”
“I will be with you always, even until the end of the age.”
So the little girl followed the Shepherd. Through valleys and plains and mountain tops, she followed Him.
Some 25 years later, that 8 year-old girl baked Christmas sugar cookies, a grown woman with children of her own napping soundly in their beds. That day evil rocked the world and something inside of her broke.
Stories poured through the television of beautiful little children, just gone. Of mothers and fathers left without them and the evil that seemed to carry the day. And in the days that followed the little girl seemed lost to fear. Her mind raced and her stomach turned because beyond the loss of the twenty-some lives, she was haunted by the question that no one else seemed to be asking (at least not out loud):
If God is really good, and we are His children, how could Newtown have ever happened.
You may find fault with this girl, I certainly won’t blame you. Christmas lights sparkled outside windows but the girl was lost in the dark. She was looking for her Shepherd, but eyes closed in fear, she could only see the snake. So she prayed a prayer she had only prayed one other time in her life, saying “I don’t know where you are Lord. I am HERE. If you are there, you are going to have to come and find me. COME AND GET YOUR GIRL.”
So the Shepherd picked up his lamb and spoke the truth I share today.
This time that we live in, this world, with its good and its bad in turn, the chocolate cake and spring peonies, the sickness and the loss, it is but a grain of sand on a beach so vast in its glory that it cannot be fathomed. We only need to find the way from our current grain of sand onto the rest of the beach. And that is why God is good, do you see?
While Newtown made us all hold our children that much tighter, God looked on His own child and said “Here. Take Mine.”
“Not a one of them.”
“He will take their place.”
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him can step from this grain of sand on to the rest of the beach where every mother will hold her child again in perfect wholeness. The time apart, until that day, is so short in comparison to the togetherness to come, it is but the blink of an eye. He promises, there will be no more tears.
Jesus reaches out to all of us saying, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the light in all this darkness.”
Yes, my friends, our God is good. This Christmas we celebrated the birth of that sweet baby boy who God sent, saying: “Not those children, but mine.”
Oh come, all ye who are faithful. The little girl in me is singing from the mountain top. Her voice pierces the darkness.
Do you hear?
It is amazing grace.
Amazing grace, how very sweet the sound.