The bridge in Minneapolis
Who hasn't wondered, 'Why?'
Questions abound after the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis last week. Given the nightmare sequence of events, some of those questions are: How could this happen? Who's to blame? But a surprising number of questions spring from the upbeat. Questions like, How did so many victims escape to safety? Or, whoever knew so many good Samaritans would risk life and limb to rescue others?
Back on the downside, another question, one from the literary world, also applies. It appears in Thornton Wilder's classic novel, "The Bridge of San Luis Rey," in which a bridge collapses and five people die. The central character asks the question at the book's core: "Why did this happen to those five?" The question resonates with many readers who have asked, in one form or another, that very thing. Who hasn't faced unexpected tragedy in his or her own life, or in the life of a friend? Who hasn't wondered, Why? Why them? Why me?
Asking big questions is one of the jobs of great literature. Perhaps it would be asking too much for great literature to also provide answers. But with Minneapolis on my mind, I wonder. So I take that question from "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" not to a novel but to the Scriptures. I look at the ministry of Christ Jesus. I pay attention to his words, and even more attention to his works. Do they hold answers?
I consider the Master's encounter with a man born blind. It begins with a question from a disciple: "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2). Jesus' most profound response – at least to me – is in what he does. He heals the man. Quickly, I jump to another account. Peter's mother-in-law is sick with a fever. Evidently this isn't a high priority with the disciples. The Scriptures imply delay on their part. But as soon as Jesus learns of her plight, he heals her instantly.
I ask again. Why was it he who was blind? Why was it she who was sick? It dawns on me. These questions are out of date. The healing action of the Christ – the spirit of God's presence and power – has made them obsolete. There's no need to explain why he's blind or she's feverish. Once Christ-healing occurs, he's not, she's not. I sense that through this spiritual fact, the core question is not so much answered as it is erased.
If the power of God could bring healing and freedom to a scene of outrageous unfairness back then, couldn't it do so again today? This returns our thoughts to the courageous people who were willing to risk their lives to save others, to those who helped get all the children off the school bus stranded on the bridge, for example. These are evidence of the Christ-presence right in the midst of tragedy. That same Christ-presence right now is providing strength and comfort to those struggling with grief. That same presence is protecting the rescue workers who still have much to do and is guiding those who are analyzing the conditions that led to the tragedy.
That Christ-presence is liberating, and its love is all-embracing. The Christian Science textbook says: "The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love. What is this supposed power, which opposes itself to God? Whence cometh it? What is it that binds man with iron shackles to sin, sickness, and death? Whatever enslaves man is op-posed to the divine government. Truth makes man free" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pp. 224-225).
Glimpses of God's nature feel freeing, like answers that satisfy. Of course, that doesn't grant one complacency. Having seen what the disaster-reversing power of the Christ can do brings one face to face with the task of following Christ Jesus. That means proving, however modestly, more of God's healing power. And that, in turn, brings nearer the day when such tragedies happen less often. And questions about why they happen will begin to be erased.