I’m not sure what’s wrong with me lately. Last week, I could not stop thinking about the Boston Marathon bombing. I would wake up in the middle of the night and check the news. The early morning of the standoff, I woke my poor husband and we watched it together. My dreams were weaved with prayers, for peace–around the world and in these man’s hearts. These things never used to make me cry, or haunt me, or awaken parts of me that were so deep and tender and complicated, but now they do. I’m not sure if it is parenthood, or the work that I am involved with, or my growing passion for life (all life), or just more time getting to know Jesus and begging for His heart in me — but whatever it is, I can hardly breathe sometimes under its weight, under its unraveling, under its pain.
I’m nervous to even write out this next part, because I know the emotions it could evoke in many of you, and I know those emotions are warranted, and I feel them, too. However, I have to say it because it is part of this growing and changing journey that I invited you on and it wouldn’t be fair to leave you out of the messy parts and just show you the pretty ones. So here it is: I think my heart broke the most this week for the two young men who caused this tragedy.
Of course, my heart breaks for the parents who have to bury their children this week. My mother-heart cannot even imagine. I don’t care if they are eight or twenty-eight, they are way too young. Of course, my heart breaks for the families and friends gathered to celebrate a momentous event who found their lives forever shattered by tragedy and fear and injury and terror. Of course, my heart breaks for those who lives will forever be marked by disability and the long journey of recovery. Of course, my heart breaks for the police officers who watched their comrades fall, in the line of duty, who had to bear the weight of a terrified city on their shoulders, who had to show no fear in the face of terror itself. Of course, my heart breaks.
But, more than that, my heart breaks for two people who felt desperate enough, hateful enough, proud-enough that they could take life, change life, damage life. Two people who had enough rage and turmoil inside of them that they had to force their own violence and darkness on others. Others so young, so vibrant, so full of life. I cannot help but hurt for the darkness that must have consumed them. I cannot imagine living a life that is saturated with that level of hopelessness. During the man-hunt all day Friday, I kept praying for the 19-year-old, that he could find hope, that his soul would be redeemed. That his story could be one of redemption from the darkest possible place.
I was reminded of the two criminals on the crosses next to Jesus, one who died denying and insulting Jesus and one who died begging him for his mercy. Jesus’ response to the second? “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). Jesus, who was suffering a horrible and painful death, innocent and pure. Jesus, who was bearing the weight of all of our own darkness, our pride, our shame. Jesus, in that moment, forgave the criminal dying next to him and invited him into an eternity of hope.
I know there is a part of all us that wants to see this man tortured and condemned to the same amount of pain he has caused others. I get that, I totally do. But whenever I hear these thoughts, I am reminded of the future we would all face for our selfishness, our darkness, our pride. The fate that we all deserve: an eternity away from a loving God. Yet, he chose to redeem us. We don’t deserve it. We are to extend forgiveness and grace, and we are asked to extend that same grace to others. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:4) Is it too much to ask for you to pray for this young man today and those who are like him? To remember that no one is exempt from God’s love and redemption? To remind you that the world will only become a better place when we extend light into the darkness and overcome evil with good.
As we take a moment of silence today to honor all of the victims, let us also remember the bombings that take place on a daily basis around the world — citizens whose lives are in a constant state of terror and fear. Let us not only care when it is on our home soil, but when it happens around the world.
Because: all life is valuable.