On Monday, people died cheering for their loved ones at the finish line of a race that has always existed as a celebration, a challenge to accomplish, a dream to make real. For the Boston Marathon that innocence has been stolen. Violence always steals and ruins.
On Monday my friend Kristin was in the crowd with friends, cheering for a buddy. I saw her Instagram before the bombing. A friend of hers was holding a mask with their running friend’s face on it. They were laughing. When the bomb exploded, they weren’t standing by the finish line. They were somewhere else. They were okay. But violence always alters. Who can ever be the same?
Three days before, my friends Andy and Catherine lost a dear friend to cancer. He was a wonderful man, the father of four young children, the husband of one grieving wife.
On Sunday in Somalia, a bomb exploded inside the country’s Supreme Court. Thirty-five people died.
On Monday in Uganda, a widowed woman could not fight back when her land and home were taken from her unjustly.*
In Mumbai, a young girl was stolen from her home and forced into a life of sex work.*
In Nairobi, another child (of tens of thousands) lost his parents to AIDS and he has no one to care for him, in a city filled with orphaned children and hopeless disease. *
On Monday, a boyfriend used fists as weapons, battered the face of his beloved.
Violence always steals. Injustice always destroys lives.
On Monday, I cried in the dining room. I stood beside the table, after reading an angry email, an email written carelessly, an email that whispered my incompetence as a mother, my failure as a neighbor. I cried with my forehead against my husband’s chest, because I’ve tried, because I want to bring peace, because I cannot force another soul to meet me with peace in return. Because peace begins with our ability to see each other’s failures with compassion and compassion is hard to come by.
Peace begins with two people, with me and with you. Peace begins with our words, our gentle touch, our willingness to look into one another’s worlds and say, “Oh, that’s why.”
One of my pastors once preached a sermon about the challenge we’ve been given as followers of Christ to live our lives attuned to the pain in this world and to the joy. Scot Sherman preached on the necessity that we grieve with one another and celebrate, recognize the injustice and lift up grateful hands for the grace.
He said something like this: “If you don’t mourn the horrors of this world, you’re either not in touch with how broken the world is or you don’t see how good it ought to be.”
We grieve because the world is not as it should be. We grieve because we know in our deepest guts that despite the moments of pleasure or sweetness, we cannot stay there. Death is coming. Destruction is coming. Grief is coming. And we were never made for this. We were never created to love and lose, to offer peace and be rejected.
As a culture, as the Church, we have a moment right now to process the horrifying violence that took place at the Boston Marathon. And as we do, I hope we will choose not to let ourselves be consumed with fear or forget that there are places on this earth, places down the street, were the horrific happens too often to imagine, where children do not understand the concept of safety.
I believe the Holy Spirit is here among us, teaching us to live lives of bright dichotomies. To live not in the emotionless between, but to live vibrantly among the ruin and vibrantly among the hope. We are the carriers of gratitude. We are the vessels of beauty.
What if we chose to suffer with those who suffer and rejoice with those who rejoice? What if we in the Church chose to dwell fully in both: in the beautiful and the beaten-up?
On Tuesday morning, my two-year-old called me to his crib, where I leaned in and whispered my favorite good morning poem, my hair, usually pulled back, fell down toward my boy’s face. He reached up, combed his fingers through it and said, in muffled toddler speak, “Wu wook pwiddy.” You look pretty, Mama.
Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery calls it “brutiful,” this world in all its mess and glory. And there in the sun-soaked room, while my toddler touched me with peace in his hands, I felt all of it. And I believed.
We are the carriers of peace. And this—all these wounded people, walking around wounding one another—this is not as the world was meant to be.
But there is a way the world was meant to be. And in the gratitude, in the hard work of bringing healing and hope to one another, in the power of the Holy Spirit and the hope wholeheartedness…
Flourishing is possible. And we are on our way.
* The first two starred examples are based on stories I’ve heard from International Justice Mission. The third, from my own experience. These are not factual, but probable.