Reflecting on the Week of the Boston Marathon Attack

I was in Los Angeles last week and just returned late Friday night to Boston and like everyone, I’m trying to collect my thoughts on this very emotional roller-coaster of a week.  I know that term gets thrown around but for me it seems like a perfect metaphor for the week. On Monday I was at the Q Conference when my wife texted: “Boston Marathon explosion. Injuries.”

In the next few moments I couldn’t help keep my mind from racing to extreme worst case scenarios. It’s amazing how fast anger and assumption can enter one’s heart and mind from four words. It was helpful to be encouraged by so many saying they were praying for our community. It was not only their way of offering solidarity, but as those of us who believe in the power of prayer, it was among their ways of helping.

I opened up my Twitter feed, kept receiving texts, clicked through news sites, felt the guilt of being somewhat relieved there were only three fatalities, was surprised by what was being reported as 150+ injured, winced at the sub headline “MA ER Doctors performing several amputations” and resented the evil of the human heart for all the pain and damage we are about to go through … again.

These are the impossible moments. When our minds and hearts feud with themselves between thinking and feeling or when we argue with each other on how we should be responding.

I have been doing my best to limit my access to social media – too much anger, too much ignorance, too much that’s not helpful. And I know if I am not careful, I will add to it. After all, I can’t say what I was thinking in some of the recesses of my heart was much better.

These are also the moments that our world views are exposed. Once we can think past the anger, once we can see past the fear, once we pause the haunting questions like, “What if this happened to us?”

All week I couldn’t help but feel distracted by all the thoughts and emotions as the developments were being revealed. Further, it would be in the days that followed where a number of people would indicate they were either volunteering or spectating. We’ve lived here for less than two years but it’s in these moments that you realize, “This is actually our home.”  I realized that it was just last year that one of our very own staff members ran the Boston Marathon – and this was precisely the pressing fear of so many – “We know people who are there now.”

Further, we are a fairly large church and each time I opened up the Mail app, I took a breath preparing myself for an email from the office saying, “Please pray for the … family whose …. was injured in the Boston Marathon attack … Doctors are saying …. ”
I’m grateful in one sense that I never  received that email but I’m saddened because I know many others did. I suppose this is similar but to a lesser degree of the “survivor’s guilt” that we hear a lot about it but the more I think about it, there’s also a great sense of compassion that’s linked too. At its root it feels that we are trying to say, “No more bad news.  No more suffering. Certainly no more that feels so unnecessary.”

There is a tendency to become overly angry, overly fearful and even overly spiritual. They are all natural in some form, but each of their extremes can lead to more hurt for yourself and for others.

It’s right to become angry during such a time. Some militant cowards plotted to take the lives of civilians because they became convinced that somehow this was actually noble. Even writing this outrageous thought causes a physical reaction for me.
It’s understandable that we feel fear. I heard sentiments like, “We were thinking of headed down there this year …” and “It’s scary that this can happen to anyone at anytime …” Indeed.
And as far as the overly-spiritual goes, there are some who can offer a cliched response and isolate themselves from the pain that others are going through. The irony is that such a reasoning is actually not spiritual in the Christian sense but spiritual in the escapism sense.

Again, it’s in these times our world views are exposed. For Christians, these are the times we submit all our anger and fears to God. Not that God instantly takes them away, leaving us with naive sentiments of joy and courage, not at all. But instead, we submit our feelings to God because He desires all aspects of our lives. We do this because this is part of the practice of placing our trust in Him, regardless of how fragile it might be a on particular day.

Further, our Scriptures teaches us to mourn with those who mourn, to hate injustice, to pray for our enemies and to trust God in all things and in all times.

What must it be like to be Bill Richard who lost his 8 year old son, Martin, whose daughter lost a leg and whose wife is in critical condition with a severe injuries? I imagine it feels impossible and I sympathize and I pray for them and for the families of Lu Lingizi, Krystle Campbell, Sean Collier. I also pray for the 176 others who were injured.

What must it be like to be the parents and family members of these two suspects whose names will not appear on this blog? It’s likely impossible for them too.  The statements made by their parents would tell us they are in complete denial and I don’t condemn them. I pray for them.

What must it be like to be the “19 year old suspect” whose heart was darkened by evil? If his heart has not completely hardened and if there’s any humanity left in his young soul, does he ask himself what has he done? “How did I turn into this?” “I’ve lost everything, for what?” If there was any soul left in him, I imagine he began thinking this as he was hungry and thirsty and wondering if he was going to bleed out while hiding in that boat. I pray for him.

I imagine these are the thoughts and lessons the suicide bomber never learns. Which leads me to wonder about the nature of suicide bombing. Which leads me to wonder about the seemingly endless number of them. Which leads me to wonder about the next time. Which leads me to repeat the process of the anger, the fear, the surrender of these feelings to God and hopefully to further place my trust in God. Not a trust that believes it can guarantee safety for oneself and one’s loved ones but the trust that believes that nothing can remove them from God’s care.

So we finish our days in prayer, we begin them with prayer as well and our hearts are postured toward the virtues and practices shown to us by Jesus – those of love, compassion, forgiveness, humility and the relentless desire to serve God and others. These are the things that cannot be taken from us. And may these be these the truths uncovered when our world views are exposed.

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