Friday, November 9, 2007

a training mission

A Black Hawk helicopter crashes in northern Italy with eleven on board. Four dead solders are pulled from the wreckage. Another died soon after in hospital. Others are in critical condition. The fifth fatality, Army aviator Captain Christian Skoglund, was an outstanding young man married to a wonderful young woman. A young woman from Canton. A young woman I watched grow up.

Excuse me while I write to myself. This is just for me. I feel so stupid and that my writing is embarrassingly sophomoric. No need to read on. I'm out of my depth trying to work through this, indulging in a futile attempt to reason about the unreasonable.

This afternoon I went to tell a colleague the bad news. He had met Christian only once but was impressed with the guy. My colleague had a very understandable and common reaction to the news, saying something to the effect that he had trouble understanding God's will in the death of this remarkable young man.

I don't know if it was God's will. Anyway, that was my reply. After thinking about this all afternoon, that would still be my reply. There is so much that happens that is not God's will. There is so much that I do that is against God's will. There is so much evil and sin in the world which God in his mercy does not eradicate, and therefore allows. (If God destroyed all the evil in the world tonight, where would you and I be in the morning?) There is so much that is not God's will, why should this be any different?

What if sin or evil was not the cause of this crash? What if it was the result of an innocent mistake (e.g., pilot error) or the result of a mechanical problem beyond any one's control?

I do not mean to be flippant, but death happens. Training missions. Combat. Helicopters crash. IEDs and grenades explode. Snipers. Ambushes. Soldiers die.

Why Christian? Why not?

Was he less deserving of death? Are others more deserving of death? To be honest, as I look at the people around me, when I look in the mirror, I have to say yes. It seems such a waste. It seems so unfair.

Our LT leads a cavalry scout platoon. Only 18 men but eight have purple hearts. Seven of his troopers were saved from certain death. It was the protective hand of God: multiple, obvious miracles.

Why were they spared? Why not?

Well the prayers of believers for these men are powerful and God is merciful. These prayers guided the protective hand of God. However, Captain Skoglund was a believer. His family members are believers. God also heard their prayers for the safety of him and his men.

Why Christian? Why not?

I do not know. I do not know.

What do I know? Christian Skoglund gave his life to Christ a long time ago. He was a child of God. To paraphrase an old hymn, his life was not his own, it was bought with a price; bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. His life belonged to Jesus. His life did not belong to a now grieving mother nor to a now grieving widow. It wasn't his. It wasn't theirs. It certainly wasn't any of ours.

We look for meaning in the tragedy in Italy. We want the seemingly senseless to make sense. I think there is meaning. I do not think this is random. However, I do not expect to find meaning unless God supernaturally reveals it. I also think the pat answer, the theological bromide, "It's God's will" does not help me or anyone else make sense of this.

The end of the Gospel of John (21:18-23) has Jesus talking one-on-one with Peter, indicating the manner in which Peter will die. Peter then saw John and asked, "Lord, what about him?"

Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?"

If you ask Jesus why, maybe he'll answer, "What is that to you?" Christian had a personal relationship with the Lord. Christian's life and his death are between him and God. It is none of our business. We are not owed an explanation. God does not need to justify himself. It is personal. It is a private matter between God and Christian. Go ahead and ask. Maybe God will answer.

Jesus also promised to comfort those who mourn (Matthew 5:4). Jesus wept (John 11:35) when he saw the pain caused by the death of his friend Lazarus. God knows what it is like to have a son die. He even had to watch it.

We should cry. We should mourn. We should grieve. We should be angry at death. If we are angry with God, we should tell him. Why pretend otherwise? Like God doesn't know?

Let's also thank God for Christian. He was a gift. Let's be grateful for the time we did have him. Those who knew him the best, those who were closest to him, those to whom Christian blessed most, are the same who have the most for which to be thankful.

The great paradox of this is that those who are grieving and suffering the most right now, are those who have the most to be thankful for. Those who are most angry with God are those who have the most to thank God for.

I understand the hurt and the anger. I understand the need to be thankful. These coexist together. What I don't understand is how or why they can coexist together. They do, but it doesn't make sense.

. . . blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have read this blog before, but it strikes me today in a particularly meaningful way. I agree completely with you - we who are the (angriest, saddest, most discouraged, with the biggest hole in our hearts) are the ones who can best express our gratitude for the amazing gift that was Christian. There is nothing in our lives to deserve such joy and goodness, nothing but God's grace - and it doesn't diminish that grace because the gift has been temporarily removed. It is an awesome picture to me to think of Christian on a romp with the Lion of Judah. I look forward to joining him someday.

Your post was a long time ago, so you may not see this response, but I thank you for your thoughts.

Christian's Dad
pskoglu@yahoo.com