Sad Valley

Nov 08th 2011

To be honest I’m not sure what to write.  Like most people in the valley of used-to-be-happy, the events of the last few days have dragged my mind and my heart all over the place.  This morning as our pastors gathered, it was our primary topic of conversation.  As you walk through the grocery store you hear the conversations.  When you drive through town, you likely are driving past someone who is listening to the latest report on the radio.  And Facebook?  Every other status update.  The responses range far and wide. Lots of anger.  PSU Icon with a tear.  Comments about what is hoped will happen to Sandusky in jail.  The call for a blue-out on Saturday.  Fire Joe.  Stay Joe.  The end of everything at State College.  The end of nothing at State College.

I’m still processing, but here are some of my initial far-and-wide thoughts, for what it’s worth.

– I’m pondering how surprised we get by sin and it’s accompanying brokeness.  Yes I’m using the “s” word.  That’s one thing about the sexual abuse of a child, we pretty much all agree it’s sin, (the parallel sins being anything that accompanies the abuse, such as cover-up, or looking the other way).  We call it Happy Valley, but come on we all realize there are hidden depths of brokenness — sexual, family, emotional, relational, financial, etc — that lay just below the surface.  I have no idea who did what, said what, reported what, or covered what up, but I do know sin and brokenness run deeper than we like to imagine.

– Here’s the real kicker.  You’ve heard the phrase, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  Say it to yourself right now.  It’s a true statement.  I think part of the difficulty is that there are some of us in Happy Valley who think we have earned grace…or at least we deserve it more than someone else.  But the reality is that I don’t deserve grace…anymore than a child abuser, or someone who covers the abuse up.  The bad news is that you and I have a greater capacity for mess/sin than we ever realized.  The good news is that we are loved by God far more than we could ever imagine.

– I travel a bit and whenever I tell people I’m from State College (by the way most people think of College Station, no one knows State College, but everyone knows Penn State) invariably I’m asked the questions, “So are you a Penn State fan?”  My response, “You can’t live in State College for 18 years and not be a fan.”  I’ve lived in State College almost 18 years, it’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life.  I know, having spent 31 years elsewhere I probably can’t claim the title “townie,” but I love Happy Valley.  I love Penn State.  With all my heart I believe that God calls us to love the city where He plants us.  But you don’t have to close your eyes in order to open your heart.  When we catch a whiff of grace, we can open both our eyes and our hearts.  This is not the end of everything at Penn State, but it might be reminder that Penn State never was all that we hoped.

– My heart goes out to the kids.  Eight have come forward in this case.  There are about 14,992 more in the Centre Region.  That’s a rough estimate of the stats put out by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 guys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18.  I cannot even imagine how this story is affecting them.  We need to pray for them and we need to strive to do better for the kids.

– I hope we don’t miss the opportunity to do some personal soul searching.  Where do I put my hope?  What are my values?  What actions — big or little — flow from my life that honor or dishonor others?  No one lives in a vacuum.  Each one of us add to or detract from the life and vitality of our community.

One more thing — I’m pondering how easy it is for us to forget…how desperately we need God.

There’s more thoughts rolling around in my head and heart…not sure if they will come out.  Maybe.  Meanwhile, for those of us who believe in the power of God…it’s probably better for us to pray, than to blog anyway.