"For I am convinced that neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)
That title is a bit presumptuous since I won't be in Orlando this Sunday and I can't say how Father's Day will be different there, except for the fact that after last Sunday's massacre some families will be without their dads, and some daughters and sons will not be around to wish their dads "Happy Father's Day." It hasn't even been a week since the shooting and I suspect some of us are needing a little break from all the coverage.
But this one feels different. "This one" of course referring to another shooting. People are feeling this one pretty deep. In Newtown it was children. This time it is a mixture of terrorism and targeting of gay people. But I sense there is even more. There seems to be a fed-up factor. Folks are tired of another shooting, another prayer vigil, another call for stricter measures, blah, blah, blah.
Where does it leave us? People of faith ask questions, important questions. Questions like, "Why did you let this happen God? How are we to make sense of this? What should we do?" And as if there would ever be a time that isn't bad, it's Father's Day to boot!
I was recently with a family who suffered the painful loss of a loved one. The dad talked about how his kids were dealing with it. He said one night after putting his son to bed, the youngster came into his parents' bedroom. When his dad asked what he needed, the son said, "I just wondered if you would hold me?" In painful times we need more than plausible answers, explanations, and reasons. We need to be held. We need the presence of one we trust who cares for us and will be there for us.
I don't remember where I first heard this story, but I've always liked it. It is about a man whose wife died from cancer. They had one child, a daughter. In the weeks after the funeral the father and daughter struggled to go back to their routines, so they decided to take a vacation. They figured getting away for a while would be healing, so they took a cruise.
The idea seemed right, but just a few days into the trip the dad was having a hard time escaping the reality. One afternoon he slumped against the rail of the ship with his head down. His daughter walked up beside him and asked, "Daddy, does God love us?" "Oh, yes," the dad assured. "So how much does He love us?" The dad pointed north over an infinite horizon. He said to his daughter, "You see that direction? God loves goes further than that." Then he pointed to the east and said the same. After that, the south and the west. Then he pointed up and said, "God loves goes higher than that." Then he pointed into the ocean and said, "God loves goes deeper than that." Then he stopped. He had no other places to point. The girl thought about it for a moment and said, "Daddy! Just think! We right in the middle of it!"
If the love of a heavenly Father means anything, even in the midst of tragedies like Orlando, it means we are right in the middle of God's love. We are surrounded and cannot escape His embrace. That doesn't give us the immediate answers we may want, but it does give us help and hope to keep living and trusting. Maybe the Orlando aftermath leaves you needing to know you are loved by a God of infinite mercy. Maybe you have your own "Orlando" going on, something painful, even tragic that has come upon you. There are times we need to push for answers; times we need an explanation; times for a call to action. But there is also a time to return to foundational beliefs: that we are loved by a God who shares our needs, who wants to comfort us, and will guide us toward a better future.
Happy Father's Day,