We spend their early lives trying to convince our children that there is no such thing as monsters. There is not a monster under their bed. There is not a monster in their closet. There is not a monster in the basement. There is no such thing as monsters. Perhaps we are also trying to convince ourselves that monsters are a figment of our imaginations, invented by moviemakers and storytellers, but not something we will ever encounter in life.
On Friday morning, December 14, 2012, we were grimly reminded that there are monsters, real monsters, and that those monsters are brutal, dangerous, and terrifying. The curtain covering human depravity was pulled back slightly and revealed the ugliest potential of humanity. Friday afternoon children came home from school different from when they left home that morning. Parents greeted their children differently compared to the four previous days. We were all keenly and painfully aware of the real impact of the tragedy in Connecticut. In mere moments, the innocence and distance between comfort and danger had been stripped from us, and the barbaric element of humanity was on display for the world to see.
With sadness for the tremendous losses we have suffered, both of lives snuffed out and the precious naiveté of our sheltered existence, we recognize today that we can no longer deny that monsters are real. We realize as well that these monsters do not resemble those in the picture books or on the movie screens, with bared teeth showing through snarling mouths, sharp claws ready to tear victims to ribbons, and the scaly green skin of an alien body. Instead, we know that real monsters look like the people we encounter every day in our community. Perhaps that is the most terrifying element of this tragedy for us.
In the days stretching toward Christmas, mingled among images of celebration and festivity will be visions of sadness, grief, and sorrow. Along with the merriment that accompanies the Christmas season will be increased vigilance among families and communities.
Amid the wishes for happy holidays people will grapple with the unanswerable questions of “why?’ and the undesired questions of “how?” Why? Why would anyone do what this monster has done? How? How can we ever hope to protect the most vulnerable among us from the viciousness of the people determined to bring evil and destruction upon them? The queries echo in the voices and thoughts of the entire nation. The questions are raised, and there are no ready answers given.
As the nation grieves let us pray for the families of those who have been lost to us. As families are left shattered, let’s plead with God to embrace them, the community, the school-mates of those children, and reveal a level of love that no one can fully understand, and that the darkness of such monsters cannot conceal. In faith, let us bind together, not in reaction, but in response to the needs within our community for security, hope, faith, and love. In this way we can honor and remember those who have been lost, and recognize the presence and peace of God, even in the midst of inconceivable pain.