Doubt in the Desert

Don’t get me wrong: I am a believer, but there are some stories that make me feel like a high school sophomore. “How could a good and loving God allow THAT to happen?”

On a day when I should be thinking about larger questions of good and evil (the bombing of Hiroshima took place 65 years ago today), I find myself thinking about Emmett Trapp, a 2-year-old boy who died yesterday in the Arizona desert, a day and a half after he’d wandered away from home.

With 3 other children, who can blame Emmett’s mom for taking a nap? Imagine the agony she must have experienced, though, when she awoke and realized that Emmett, a tyke wearing a diaper and a dinosaur-print pajama top, had walked out of their home.

40 hours later a search party found Emmett’s body, stuck in the mud less than a mile away.


In some respects, it’s almost easier for me to understand the larger stories of evil in this world because they are invariably tied into man’s decisions and his inhumanity to his fellow man. But with stories like Emmett’s, I find myself asking, “Hey, Big Guy, how much would it have hurt you to have had little Emmett wander back home? Or to have had a neighbour find him in his backyard? Would that really have distorted your grand epic of creation?”

A theologian friend of mine has observed that, “God loves us but he also loves free will.” She’s right, of course, and intellectually that makes perfect sense.  But it doesn’t make me feel any better about a God who could let toddler in a dinosaur shirt die in the desert.


One thought on “Doubt in the Desert

  1. A terrible tragedy — and God would be justly condemned if he allowed the boy to be obliterated.Except that He didn’t. He rescued the little boy.
    Picture yourself in your office. Suddenly you see and smell smoke. You run into the hallway and you know that there are doors to stairways at either end. You run down to one of the dorrs and turn the knob (or hit the bar) but the door is locked. You then frantically run to the other end of the now burning hall and find the same situation. The door is locked and you aren’t getting out. Imagine how you would feel at the moment.

    Suddenly, you find yourself lying on the ground outside of the building looking up into the eyes of a fireman standing over you. How would you feel at that moment? A jesuit spiritual director tells that story and says that that is the heart of the Christian message. We are ultimately trapped by sin and death, but there is a rescuer — a fireman waiting for us. The little boy woke up and saw the face of the fireman. That doesn’t relieve the pain and anguish for those left behind, but it is the central message of our faith. The little boy wearing a dinosaur shirt died in the desert, but he WAS rescued.

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