I had just dropped off the funeral home’s outgoing mail at the nearby post office, got back into my little truck and was about ready to pull onto First Ave. when a police car came blazing through town with his lights flashing and sirens squealing, probably topping 50 mph in a 25 zone. As I saw him pass me I thought to myself, “I wonder what’s going on?”
It didn’t take me long to find out.
He was heading about five miles west of our modest town of Parkesburg to Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania,to the site of the Amish School Shootings. I, along with the rest of the world, watched the TV in disgust that night as we learned the details of how the killer had lined 10 Amish girls along the wall and shot them execution style, killing five and wounding the rest before eventually killing himself.
This all happened six years ago yesterday.
Some of the survivors testify that the killer, Roberts, seconds before he opened fire mumbled that he was going to give up and was even about ready to walk out the door. Yet, for some reason, he stuck to his intentions and, seconds before he pulled the trigger, stated to the Amish children, “I’m angry at God and I need to punish some Christian girls to get even with Him.”
Unknown to most of us, one of Robert’s children, a daughter, had died at birth, an event he believed God could have stopped, yet didn’t. Roberts, like most of us as we face death, had probably run to God like a frightened child, and after years of searching, instead of finding a warm, strong embrace, concluded that God was an absentee father.
On Monday, October 2, 2006 at 10:45 a.m., Roberts “got even” with God in his attempt to confront the looming question that lead, for Roberts, to bitterness, hatred and eventual tragedy.
I’m not suggesting that Roberts was sane; nor am I suggesting that you must be insane to become absolutely hateful and embittered at God.
I’ve often said that it’s easier to become an atheist than to believe in an evil God … Robert took the harder route and became just like his Father.
But all this would have, could have been forestalled had Roberts done something that is both very Christian and very unChristian all at once. Roberts may have found peace had he found the ability to forgive.
The forgiveness he needed to offer was the same forgiveness I imagine many of us (who both believe in God’s omnipotence and have lived through inordinate, unexplained pain) need to offer. A forgiveness that can’t be prompted by any amount of lessons in theodicy. A forgiveness that is precipitated with Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The cry that kicked off Holy Saturday. And the cry that — like Jesus’ cry — had no response. The cry that leads to the crossroads of destruction or forgiveness. But not any forgiveness. This is the cry that eventually asks us to forgive God.
“Forgiving God” smacks against the core of what so many of us believe about God: namely, that He is good and that He’s love. Believing that God needs forgiveness — as though He’s done something wrong — is so far away from our conception about God that we simply don’t talk about it. We won’t acknowledge that even Jesus struggled with God’s goodness … we won’t acknowledge Jesus’ struggle, nor will we acknowledge our own struggle.
And whether God actually needs the forgiveness isn’t what I’m talking about here. Whether or not God needs it is a moot point. The fact is, many of us need to extend it.
As many books have rightly said about the Amish School Shootings: This whole story is about forgiveness. And by that they mean the forgiveness of the Amish people towards Roberts. But, this story would have never begun had Roberts been Christ-like as well.
And so, as a practical exercise, I’ll ask you: and by “you”, I’m speaking to a few. I’m not speaking to the many who have lived decent lives, unencumbered by evil, unhindered by the fog of intense pain. I’m speaking to the downcast, the trampled few who only have one explanation for their current situation … and the explanation is both as harrowing as it is unbelievable … that God has forsaken them. I’m speaking to you … the forsaken.
Have you forgiven God?
 We didn’t bury any of the Amish children, but the guy who bought the funeral home off of my maternal grandfather prepared two of the children.
Quoted from the book Amish Grace; page 25.