Like you, we have been overwhelmed by the tragedy in Connecticut. We were reminded of the terror of a school shooting closer to home, at Northern Illinois University, and our thoughts today echo those from nearly five years ago.
We write these words three days after the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. Such events are often described as “unspeakable.” Sometimes we take that to mean that these events are so terrible, we should not speak of them; it is safer just to go on as usual, to voice pat answers and cliches (”there’s a reason for everything”), to deal with the sadness of it all by ignoring it, and perhaps to pretend that we ourselves are not vulnerable to such things.
We do not believe this is what is meant by “unspeakable.” Rather, to say that a tragic event is unspeakable means we should beware what we say about it. Too often we use words to distance ourselves from the truth or to try to explain the unexplainable. To say that something is unspeakable is to be very careful when we try to put into words a truth that is beyond words.
To say that what happened in Connecticut is unspeakable is to say that our words can never fully express the terror of the experience, words can never fully comprehend the depth of the loss of those young lives, words can barely begin to describe the heartache of it all.
Unspeakable things happen with distressing frequency. Most of us experience them at one time or another, but rarely in such a public way as we have recently witnessed.
God’s response to tragedy is not words…but a life: Christ’s life, a life that itself ends in tragedy. If anything makes Christian faith distinctive, it is this: the God who made all things suffers death at the hands of his own creation. It is almost unspeakable.
“Unspeakable” can also refer to the other extreme of the human experience. When you have known tragedy, then the hope that just maybe, some day, you might feel alive again is nearly unspeakable. We name that hope…Easter.
We pray that the loved ones and friends of those whose lives were lost in Connecticut, and those whose lives have been lost by tragic means at any time, will encounter the living God who leads us through the challenges and tragedies of this life to a hope that is beyond words…and almost unspeakable.
Grace and peace,
Greg and Kathy Bostrom
Wildwood Presbyterian Church