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We gather here still trying to make sense of what happened in Blacksburg, still trying to process the unprocessable. We come together in this place, as a Christian community, partly because we know of no better place to bring our questions and our grief and partly because we don't know where else to turn. As the apostle Peter once said to Jesus, at a moment of confusion and doubt, "Lord, to whom else can we go?"

In considering how to begin today, I found myself following two different threads. The first thread is what I would like to say, the words I wish I could say. The second thread is the truth.

I wish I could say that the pain you feel will disappear, vanish, never to return. I'm sure you've heard comments like these from parents and others: "Things will get better." "You'll get past this." "This too shall pass." Those who offer such comfort mean well, and it's true that what you feel now you will not always feel. Yet it's also true that what happened on April 16, 2007, will stay with you forever. You are a different person because of that day, because of one troubled young man's actions.

I remember one year when three of my friends died. In my thirties then, I had little experience with death. In the midst of my grief, I came across these lines from George Herbert that gave me solace: "Grief melts away / Like snow in May / As if there were no such cold thing." I clung to that hope even as grief smothered me like an avalanche. Indeed, the grief did melt away, but like snow it also came back, in fierce and unexpected ways, triggered by a sound, a smell, some fragment of memory of my friends.

So I cannot say what I want to say, that ...

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Where Is God When It Hurts?
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June 2007

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