If you would have talked to me last week, I would have had no desire to visit Birmingham, Alabama. Then I came across a weekly report that one of my bosses had prepared at Southwest Airlines. In it, she talked about how Southwest Airlines had helped support the families of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Curious about this, I did research. Impressed with the story behind the 1963 bombing, I booked my free flight to Birmingham from Dallas.
Soon enough, I found myself standing across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church. It was raining in downtown Birmingham that afternoon so I sought shelter in the church. I joined a tour group inside the chapel and watched a video of what had transpired in the church.
On September 15th, 1963, members of the KKK planted a bomb at the 16th Street Baptist Church, which had been a rallying point for the Civil Rights movement. A group of African American kids were heading to the basement of the church to hear the sermon “The Love That Forgives” when the bomb went off. Four teenage African-American girls were killed in the blast and twenty-two more injured. The bombing caught the attention of the entire nation, which, until that point, had paid little heed to the Civil Rights Movement. The bombing helped sway public opinion in favor of the African Americans. A Milwaukee Sentinel editorial said, “For the rest of the nation, the Birmingham church bombing should serve to goad the conscience. The deaths…in a sense are on the hands of each of us.”
I walked to the right side of the 16th Street Baptist Church and found a memorial placed right where the bomb once was fifty years ago. On my visit, I walked back to that spot not just once, but three times pondering on the fact that there are many questions about life that cannot be explained.
One of those questions I’ve had at times is “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”
I couldn’t help but wonder that as I stood in the rain right where the lives of these four girls ended abruptly. I was standing there thinking when I watched an African American man walk closer to the small stone memorial dedicated to the four girls and looked close at it. He searched the stone looking for something. He then wiped the rain at the bottom of the memorial and read something. He smiled, nodded his head, and proceeded to walk down the street. Curious, I looked at the memorial to see what he had just read.
What I had failed to realize was a scripture on the memorial. It was from Genesis Chapter 50, verse 20 and it read: “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”
I will not try to answer such a complex question but offer my opinion of this scripture. I personally feel that everything in life happens for a reason. No righteous individual is taken before their time. We each have gone through trials that we wouldn’t wish on anyone, even our enemies. Reflecting on what I’ve gone through the past year, I’ve been exposed to some of the most difficult trials I have ever faced in my life. But when I look back on those trials I’ve come to realize just how much better my life is and how those times were times that “God meant it unto good.” I cannot relate to what it’s like to lose a daughter in a bomb explosion but I can relate to what it’s like when life takes a different turn than expected.
People have their ability to choose and unfortunately they choose to take the lives of others. But we can choose to realize that such evil times cannot tear us apart and that somehow they fit in God’s picture of life for us.