I am reading a book entitled, "Amish Grace" at a time in my life when I am unsure who I am and who I am becoming. I have many days when I am very close to the Lord and feel secure in His hand and secure in His will. But these days are followed by several days when life's business takes over my schedule and I find myself not reading my Bible, not having alone time, not worshiping through music, and not praying. It is this back and forth, up and down, in and out relationship with my God that leaves me wondering questions related to my identity:
Who am I?
Why do I do what I do?
Do I choose my actions with purpose of do I merely react to life's circumstances?
With these questions swirling in my mind I chose to read a story - a true story about a circumstance that happenend very close to my hometown to a group of people that have exhibited nothing but peace and contentment my entire life. "Amish Grace" is the story of the shotting of 10 Amish scoholgirls in their one room shoolhouse by an English neighbor who they knew as a milkman (the Amish refer to any American who is not Amish as "English"). The story of the shooting is, of course, horrific - 10 young firls ages 13 and under shot in the head at close range, 5 dead, 5 critically injured and left with disabilities, the shooter dead by suicide. But the shooting accounts for one chapter of the book. the rest of the book explains the reaction of the Amish community, even the immediate family members of the deceased daughters.
They forgave. The forgave immediately. They forgave corporately, they forgave individually. When I say immediately, I mean the day of the shooting some members of the community (all related in some way to the children in the schoolhouse) went to visit the shooter's wife and children to offer their condolences on the loss of their father and husband. The story of their response makes me really consider how that happens, how forgiveness is the first response rather than anger and overwhelming hatred. I mean honestly if a man locked my daughter in a room and shot her and her cousins and friends in the head, my response that day would not be to visit HIS family. I would think of no on e but myself and my loss, my anger and the injustice done to me. I would view the man as repulsive and would not choose to see anything from his point of view. I wouldn't want to think of the hurt he felt throughout his life that may have led him to such an extreme choice in ending his life. and God, yes God would be forefront in my mind, but I don't know in what way - maybe questioning why, maybe feeling anger, maybe feeling betrayed, maybe feeling abandoned, maybe just feeling sad, maybe all of the above.
Yet somehow this community, all related in some way to one of the girls in that schoolhouse, opened their eyes enough to see beyond themselves. They saw daughters the same age as their own daughters who lost their father that day by suicide. They saw a wife who was purely stunned that the man she knew as her husband, who attended church with her, could do such a terrible thing to little girls the same ages as his own daughters. they visited his parents who were speechless and grief-stricken at the loss of their own son in such a way. And their answer to questions such as mine was simply, "Forgivenes is what we do. It's what we know. It just simple Christianity." The Amish were quite shocked that the surrounding "English" Christian community could be speechless over their actions.
As I read I thought of Job and was surprised by what I found. After hearing that he lost every single material possession and animal that he owned and all 10 of his children in one day:
"The he (Job) fell to the ground in worship and said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the Name of the Lord be praised."
What I am learning through reading "Amish Grace", praying, reading my Bible, and observing my own behavior and the behavior of others is that a response of such forgiveness or a response of immediate worship can only come from a life built on and sustained by God minute by minute. And I know that the Amish have still gone through a grieving process and Job grieved as well. So I understand that their is a reality to grief and loss and sadness. However, it's the "fruit" or the response that appears in the immediate moment of tragedy that I desire to possess; the knee jerk reaction.
Job was a man who worshiped God each day, all day. The Amish have set themselves apart in a lifestyle of humility in honor and respect for God.
Have I truly built my life on God, or is He still someone that I dismiss or forget about when I'm busy? Do I really view Him as keeping me alive every day? Do I really believe that He is the reason I have a family, He is the reason I have a home, He is the reason I have an income? Do I truly perceive how dependent my life is on my God?
Oh Lord, I want to. I really want to. I want to see things from Your perspective. I want to see how You provide for me in the smallest detail and the grandest measure. I want to see that You are my Author and Perfector; You are my Creator, You are the giver of life.
The Lord gives and He takes away;
May the Name of the Lord be praised.