The Phone Call
I will never forget the phone call my wife answered early that morning of January 16, 2006 – fourteen years ago today. It was the kind of phone call that scars you for the rest of your life, making every other call that comes in the middle of the night one you’re afraid to answer.
The phone rang, my wife answered, and all I could hear were screams coming from the receiver. What could finally be understood through the uncontrollable crying were words one’s brain has a hard time processing…”They’re dead!”
It was a murder-suicide.
Hitting the Road
In just a few hours or less, my wife and I had left western Kentucky and were back in East Tennessee and our hometown (we broke a few speed limits). By the time we arrived the bodies were gone, but not the results of the shooting. It was a sight nothing on television or in the movies can adequately recreate. It was literally dumbfounding how much damage, how much carnage, could be unleashed by one person with just one .40 cal. handgun.
The walls, the ceiling, the floors, the floor on the level below, and even the garage below that – the effects were everywhere. Even the third floor of the massive home was not immune to the damage; that’s where I found a bullet lodged in a child’s bean bag.
Where Was God?
“Where was God?” some people asked. You might be tempted to ask the same thing. If God was real, why didn’t He do something? Why didn’t He stop this? Why did He let this happen to such a likable, popular couple? Why did children lose a father and a stepmother?
Where was God?
Believe it or not, He was there the whole time, even long before the tragedy took place. He was there, letting a man and wife live as they chose, loving them by giving them their free will.
He was there every time the conscience was stung, and every time it was seared. He was there, speaking through His Word, offering to guide, but never forcing, even when one of them chose to start dabbling in witchcraft disguised as prosperity theology.
God was there in the voice of those saying, “Don’t drink like that.” He was there in the voice of those saying, “Don’t stay here; he’s going to hurt you.” He was even there in the last-second pleas not to shoot.
Yes, God was there.
But here’s a question: Where was God the last time you made a bad choice? Where was God when you last idolized yourself by putting your wishes first? Where was God the last time you got angry and sinned, wounding your wife, your children, or a friend with an outburst you now regret?
He was there; you just chose to do things your way, not His.
That’s what happened 14 years ago; God’s way was avoided and man’s way was chosen.
Coincidence? You Decide.
At one point, as I was standing looking down at the place where bloody carpet had been ripped up, in my peripheral vision I caught a glimpse of a large Bible on a stand in the adjacent library off to the right of the master bedroom where the murder/suicide took place. Seeking some meaning, some comfort, I walked over to the open family Bible hoping to read something that would offer hope, even make some sense of what had just happened.
Yet, on January 16, 2006, the Bible was not opened to Psalm 23 … it was opened to Jeremiah 16.
Jeremiah 16:9-11 – “(9) For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride. (10) And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what [is] our iniquity? or what [is] our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God? (11) Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshiped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;”
Where was God? A better question might be, “Where are you?”