Last week I saw a man shot and killed.
I wish that was a metaphor, or that I was being poetic or something, but I’m not.
A woman ran into the store where I was shopping, shouting to call 911, that someone had been shot. From the self-checkout area, we looked up and there he was just outside the doors. I stood there dumbly, refusing to believe it was real. He’d probably just tripped, or fainted. I hadn’t even heard the gunshots. This wasn’t happening.
I’m a person who looks for meaning in every little thing, but my mind has been unable to latch onto anything meaningful. And I don’t have the stomach for a trite moral to the story. He deserves so much more than that.
My questions in the wake of this experience, and in the face of mass-scale tragedies like the recent earthquake in Japan and ensuing tsunami in the Pacific, have changed. Rather than asking what it means, I’m asking where God is, and I’m looking for God ferociously.
And looking for God has been painful. It means that I have to go back and remember where I was and what I saw. It means I have to sit with those memories, and ask God to sit with me. God, who felt so absent. God, who let this happen.
Though I’m still shaky when I think about it, and my voice cracks when I try to speak of it, this is what I’m beginning to see:
God was the two young men who ran to the back of the store to get ice.
God was hysterical woman who couldn’t peel herself away from the doorway.
God was the man on the cell phone with one hand on the man who’d been shot.
God was standing at the self-checkout area, too horror-struck to move.
God was the employee who stayed at the customer service counter to help customers.
And God is still grieving with the family and friends of the dead man, whose name I wish I knew.