There have been numerous tragedies brought to our attention in recent days — alligators, in my neck of the woods a kayaking incident, and I was talking to my mom about the kayaking incident in particular and how only a few minutes after the park posted a response about praying for the family, people were already making the death those peoples’ fault — they made a bad decision, the water was too high, why don’t people read signs anymore… And she made the point that people would not be able to go about their daily lives if we realized that if we fell just right, we could die in our bathrooms, stepping off the curb, or in any number of mundane circumstances.
Because we can’t handle the idea of life being that fragile. It is truly too much for us to bear, so instead we look for ways that we would have done something differently. If life is not that fragile (and it can’t be), someone has to be a fault, and that someone had to do something I wouldn’t do.
Now, caveat here, at the children’s hospital there were people who did things that got themselves or their children hurt that made me cringe or cry. Things that were clearly not wise choices or maybe choices made out of neglect or lack of resources — choices that were very avoidable. But that’s not what I’m writing about today.
What I’m writing about today is the fact that our hearts hurt so much at the idea of a loved one getting hurt that we can’t hold it, can’t sit with it, and perhaps choose not to go to God with it, so we pass it on. We say life is not that fragile, clearly you did something wrong. Life is not that unpredictable, clearly you forgot to read the instructions. Life is not that fragile, clearly that stuff only happens to bad parents, people who don’t follow instructions, negligent people, dumb people. In short, not people like me — not families like my family. Surely life is not that fragile for us too.
But I have borne witness to the fragility of life as a chaplain and a pastor. I have seen families devastated through no fault of their own in an afternoon. I have heard story upon story upon story, and they are haunting. To know either first hand, or as I do, as witness, that life is fragile is hard. It can come with waves of fear. It can come with flashbacks of stories, it can come with unexpected sadness at happy times. But, most importantly, it comes with grace, and it does not come with blame.
Because life is fragile we are called to love our neighbors and strangers alike.
Because life is fragile we aren’t here to pile on blame but instead to cover grieving families in love, in prayer, and in presence.
Because life is fragile we know it is not a competition. Someone else getting hurt does not save my family from hurt. This isn’t a terrible lottery with only one winner.
Because life is fragile we have to fall hard on grace, cling to hope, look for joy.
Because life is fragile, we are all in this together — risk being awkward, risk being wrong — catch the falling child on the playground, call 911 don’t wait for someone else, cry for other people’s losses, and celebrate other people’s victories.
Because life is fragile, choose to first feel sadness and fear over self- righteousness and blame. Hold them loosely, offer them up to God. Hold onto gratitude, hold on to grace. And remember, there with the grace of God, go we.