We’ve all heard the warning: “Be careful what you wish for.” It hit home for us this weekend in a way I never expected. I had hoped that my boys would have a life-changing experience while on their fall retreat. But not like this. Not by coming face to face with tragedy. My middle schooler witnessed a horrible accident to a fellow student – the stuff parental nightmares are made of. The young man was coming down a 1000 foot zipline at about 45 miles per hour when he hit, full force, a platform that had mistakenly been left in the path. The other kids watched him hit it, watched the platform go crashing down the hill, and watched their unconscious friend dangling from his harness until the workers could get him down and the Lifestar medical helicopter could take him to get medical assistance. What started out as a weekend full of fun ended quite differently, especially for one family. They have a long road ahead, as the extent of the boy’s injuries, which include a cracked skull and possible brain damage, are still unknown.
How do you prepare your children for these possibilities? And how do you deal with them when they strike close to home? The church staff did an awesome job talking and praying with the kids and reestablishing some sense of normalcy to the weekend. We parents were briefed on how best to talk with our kids on their return and what possible reactions to expect. But the simple truth is that we live in a fallen world where mistakes are made and bad things happen to good people. And through it all, God is still God and He is still in control and worthy of our praise regardless of the circumstances.
I remember back to 1988, when as a college student I had recently returned from a semester in London. Flashing across the news were the reports of a plane that had exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, carrying many college students headed home from a similar study-abroad program. My dad looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Do you see? Do you see now why I didn’t want you to go?” I honestly hadn’t remembered his being resistant to my going, but I tried to understand his pain. I understand it even more now, as that child who went down the zipline at the wrong moment could just as easily have been mine. But I can’t wrap him in a padded suit and lock him in his room. Life is meant to be lived, and life is full of risk.
Jeremiah 29:11 states: ” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” He can bring good out of the most tragic of situations and will often use the most unlikely people to further His kingdom. I don’t know what the future holds for the victim of this tragedy, and I don’t know the long-term impact it will have on the witnesses. But I do know that God has a plan for it all and His future is full of hope. And I know that since we are not promised tomorrow, I’ll hug my boys just a little tighter tonight and thank God that He has given us today.