The Oslo shooting: A butterfly dies

Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Image by PaulHorner via Flickr

A bomb shatters the peace of Oslo.  How vulnerable we have become.

A gunman stalks young people camping on the tiny island of Utoya, firing with intent to kill.  How utterly terrifying.  There’s nowhere to hide from an attack like that; where will he go next?  More than eighty people dead at last count.  A young woman hides under a table with a mattress and pillows for protection and her own terrified breathing for company.  It’s as good a place as any to hide and just as hopeless.  She survives.  She’s alive but she emerges from her fragile cocoon to an entirely new reality.  A reality shattered by death and fear and loss.  It’s as if the butterfly had crawled back into the cocoon and reawakened as a caterpillar.  A young woman confronted by terror and distress that will have been scarred into her very DNA.

As the police comb the wreckage for clues, and journalists search for stories within the story, this young woman and others like her will have to learn to live all over again; to learn how to walk and talk, to eat and work; but most challenging of all, how to love and to trust again.

How fragile trust is.  Whether trust between friends, or trust in the essential goodness of the universe, or trust in the unknown God.  It can take a lifetime to build and an instant to shatter.  And the rebuilding is often beyond the best of us.

Is that why Jesus spends so much time telling his disciples about unity, and demonstrating the love of God, and so little time laying down the law we love to focus on?  Rules are so much easier; you either keep them or you don’t; you’re either in or you’re out.  But to love and to forgive and to rebuild when trust is broken, despair has set in, and hopelessness rules supreme?  That is beyond human endeavours.

“Love one another,” was Jesus’ command.
“That they may be one,” was his prayer.
And the work of the disciples was to “proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.”

Why then do we obsess about rules that separate us—about my interpretation over yours, your worship compared with mine?  Why do we hate so much—those whose views on abortion or same-sex marriage, challenge our own, or whose political views conflict with ours?

Can we learn to focus more on love, on becoming the body of Christ, together?  Can we dare to live sacrificially and love unconditionally?  Can we live more gently, so that this young woman in Oslo can learn to build her life again?  So that those whose lives are threatened, not by bullets, but by the slow death of poverty, hunger, and disease can discover that the universe was made for them as well?  Can we learn to love, until butterflies emerge from the cocoon again, and the meek inherit the earth?  Until the words of triumph, “Father, forgive them”, overcome the battle cries of power and revenge?   Until “peace be still” are not just words for an angry sea, but a gift to all humanity?

We are no doubt too late for the gunman of Oslo; perhaps even for this young Oslo woman, but what about my neighbour and yours?  Can you and I create safe places in our hearts and lives for the broken and damaged in our families and in our communities?  Can we teach our children that love, whatever it costs, is the gift we are determined to give?

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