Zondervan (April 1, 2008)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Matt Rogers is copastor of New Life Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech. Eight hundred students call it home.
FROM THE BACK COVER:
On April 16, 2007, the campus of Virginia Tech experienced a collective nightmare when thirty-three students were killed in the worst massacre in modern U.S. history. Following that horrendous event, Virginia Tech campus pastor Matt Rogers found himself asking and being asked, “Where is God in all of this?” The cliché-ridden, pat answers rang hollow.
In this book, Matt approaches the pain of the world with personal perspective—dealing with his hurting community as well as standing over the hospital bed of his own father—and goes beyond answers, beyond theodicy, beyond the mere intellectual. When Answers Aren’t Enough drives deeper, to the heart of our longing, in search of a God we can experience as good when life isn’t.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (April 1, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Embracing the World That Is
Lately I’ve been walking in the evenings. I tend to do that when stuck on a question. Maybe I’m trying to walk it off. On days when I have time, I drive out to Pandapas Pond in Jefferson National Forest to be in nature. Once there, I set off through the woods or slowly stroll along the water’s edge, deep in thought or prayer.
Most days, because of time, I have to settle for the streets around my home. I can quickly climb to the top of Lee Street, turn around, and look out over Blacksburg, the Blue Ridge backlit by the setting sun. From there, I can see much of Virginia Tech. The stately bell tower of Burruss Hall rises proudly above the rest.
On nights like tonight, when I get a late start and the sun is already down, I head for campus. At its center, separating the academic and residential sides of the school, sits the Drill Field, a wide-open grassy space named for the exercises that the Corps of Cadets practices to perfection there. After dark, old iron lampposts, painted black, blanket the ground in overlapping circles of light.
It was here on the Drill Field, the day after the shootings, that students placed thirty-two slabs of gray limestone rock — Hokie stones, as they’re called — in a semicircle in front of Burruss Hall, to commemorate the lives of loved ones lost. Thousands of mourners descended on the place, bearing with them a flood of condolences, a mix of bouquets, balloons, and poster-board sympathies. They came sniffling, clinging to tissues and to one another, and lifting their sunglasses to wipe tears from their tired, red eyes. The world came as well, vicariously through television, watching us, kneeling with us in grief.
I also came, revisiting the stones day after day, and sometimes at night, drawn to them by a need to connect with the dead whom I never knew. Always there was something new here, some trinket that had been added. At times the items seemed odd: a baseball for every victim, an American flag by every stone, though some of the dead were international students.
People took their time passing by this spot. There was no need to rush; there were no classes to attend. It would be days, dark and long, before there would be any distractions from the pain. For a time, there was no world beyond this place.
By day, soft chatter could be heard around the memorial. After sunset, no one spoke a word. During daylight, masses huddled near the stones, peering over shoulders to read the notes left there. At night, however, mourners passed by in a single-file line, waiting their turn, patient with the people in front who wished to pause at every name.
The masses have since receded. The Drill Field now is vacant (except for these stones) and silent. The semester has ended, most of the students are gone, and only the sounds of insects disturb the stillness of the summer evening air. If I close my eyes and take in the quiet, I can almost imagine nothing happened here.
Almost. Except for the stone reminders that lie at my feet. On one is written a simple, anguished note.
We love you.
Mom and Dad
These stones are more than rocks. Each is all that remains of a son, a daughter, a husband who will never come home again. I picture my mom and dad, heartbroken, kneeling by a stone for me, had I been among the dead. Moreover, I imagine myself by a stone for my dad, had he not survived his fall.
This is a summer of mourning. I am grieving the world as it is. And I am asking, “If I embrace the world as it is, in all its sadness — if I refuse to bury my head in the sand, pretending all is well, but rather think and speak of the world as it actually is — can I, then, still know God as good? Can my experience of him be more consistent than my circumstances, which alternate between good and bad?”
Is this too much to expect?
Before I can know, I must face the world at its worst.