Tragic Tuesday

Ashley Messmann. Photo Courtesy of Rachelle Durham.
On Monday, things were like they have always been. You could call the West Bend and Ashley would answer the phone. Then Tuesday came. And everything changed.

Tuesday morning was a foggy morning. One of the worst fogs I had ever seen. At around eight, the fire trucks and ambulance flew by my house with sirens on. At that time, I didn't know what had happened, but, with the fog, I knew it couldn't be good. The noise of the sirens was followed by the ringing of my phone. Ashley had yet to make it to work. Something really unlike her. They were worried at the shop. The family was worried. And the fog just sat there, hiding everything.

After the news of the tragedy arrived, we were stunned, shocked, saddened, and hollow. We were hoping it was a bad dream. That it couldn't be real. The fog may have lifted, but the cloud had shifted to my mind as I sat there in Ashley's desk chair. Why did God allow this? She had a two-year old boy. Why didn't he reach down and stop it? Couldn't he do that?

And I remembered an article that I wrote in December. An article that began a lengthy conversation with Ashley. She was always a feisty one. Feisty in a good, fun way. She was able to let you have it in a way that made you still feel loved. And she was a good thinker. That article, which we worked through at that time, is a helpful reminder in times like these.

We often hear the phrase, "Everything happens for a reason." That common saying sounds all good and spiritual. It's nice to have a good attitude, but the bad theology drives me nuts. True, everything happens for a reason, but when that is uttered in spiritual circles it usually implies that everything happens as a result of God. He's the "reason" they are implying.

Lots of things happen due to reasons that are terrible and have nothing to do with God. A kid gets killed in a drunk driving accident, not because God wanted that, but because we live in a fallen world where a person decided to be stupid, drink too much, and decided to drive. Kids get shot in a school, not because God wanted that, but, again, because we live in a fallen world where something went terribly wrong in a young man's head. And a friend - a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister - pulls out into traffic and is in a terrible, tragic accident, not be because it is God's will but because we live in a fallen world where accidents happen.

God is not a puppet master, and we are not His puppets. Although in times like these, I wish we were. God will use everything for His glory, but that does not mean that everything happens as a result of God working out His will. See the distinction. God doesn't cause us everything to happen, but He will use everything to bring about His will. Every day, things happen that are not what God wants to happen. Things outside of His will, outside of His plan. At the death of his friend Lazarus, Jesus wept. Despite knowing the miracle that was to follow, Jesus wept. I don't find it too much of a stretch, at a time like this, to imagine Jesus weeping once again.

Instead of saying that "everything happens for a reason" or "if it's God's will, it will happen," I want to propose a new statement that may not be as catchy, yet it contains more truth than those two statements. "If God wills it, then we need to join in and make it happen. Or it won't." God is the solution. He has a plan for humanity and each one of our lives. But we, the church and His people, are the delivery method of that solution and are given the privilege to bring his plan into our reality. His will typically does not come without faithful people working it out, here on earth as it is in heaven.

We are free will beings. Although, at times, I think we would give that free will up to be with loved ones who have passed from this fallen world. Life is tough. Tragedy is tough. Death is tough. Accidents happen because of our free will choices. Terrible, destructive accidents caused by silly, insignificant choices. That's really what makes it an accident. It is a consequence that occurs that is far more weighty than the decision that caused it. At times when metal collides and sparks fly, I so wish we were micromanaged by God to avoid these experiences, but He's not in the micromanagement business. Well, at least not all of the time. He focuses on the prompting business.

We need to be careful to never let those words - that "everything happens for a reason" or " if it's God's will, it will happen" - ever exit our mouths or control the way we live. Try not to even think them. Those thoughts disempower. They blame God for tragedies like these. They belittle our importance as free will beings. They cripple our prayer lives. They stifle evangelism.

God doesn't need us to be puppets for Him to be great. He's already great. He's amazing in the way that He is patient and waits for faithful followers to bring about His will. And we don't need to be forced to be faithful. We need grace to be right with God; our own works cannot do that. But that grace is available to everyone. Each one of us needs to acknowledge that God knows the solution, the best plan for our lives, and He is waiting for us to be faithful. We have the choice to respond to His plan for our lives by surrendering to His will, loving Him, and loving others. God will use everything to bring about His will. But He is patient. If God wills it, then we need to join in and make it happen. Or it won't. He will wait for someone else to bring about His will.

I don't want to live in a family, a community, a church, or a world where His will isn't happening. Life's too short not to experience and live in the will of God. But bringing His better plan into our reality about starts with us. In the morning, when we rise, do we decide that we are going to live this day to bring about God's plan or are we going to spend it investing in a plan that will eventually turn to dust. The choice is ours. An eternal plan, that will still be important long after we are gone, or a fleeting plan, that will disappear soon after we exit. We choose what we are going to invest in, not purely by intellectual assent, but by the way we live.

Photo Courtesy of Rachelle Durham.
Last week, the West Bend News family lost a good friend. When I would call the West Bend, Ashley would be the one to usually answer. On Wednesday, I called and had this awkward moment where I wanted to say, "Hi, Ashley. How are you doing?" But she's no longer there. When I would walk in, she would be the first person I would greet. We would talk about life, about our kids, and about an article I wrote at times. She was an awesome lady. And she will be missed. Even more by her family.

For the family and friends, I lift up prayers of comfort and peace. May, God who gives us a peace that goes beyond all understanding, inhabit your homes, your lives, and your relationships during these times. You are loved. I pray that you feel it.