Horrified. How else to feel after a race gone awry, after shrapnel and blood rained on Boston’s runner’s high?
I heard of what happened, appropriately, while running on the treadmill. I guess the gym must be the only place I watch the evening news, because I remember the headlines of the Newtown shooting alerting me from the T.V. as I sat on the stationary bike. Last night, standing on the treadmill.
No doubt countless Americans had the same ironic experience, the sound of shoes hitting the treadmill belt in a rhythmic fashion long after they watched with wide eyes as the Boston marathoners dropped to the ground from the blast.
No doubt you, like me, had trouble sleeping, lying awake thinking of friends and acquaintances out East. If you don’t have friends in Boston, no doubt you, too, nursed a broken heart for the stricken, haunting man we saw on every news outlet, the photograph of him in his wheelchair with a bare bloody bone sticking from the end of his knee, no leg left below.
Tonight I tied my running shoes and ran outside on my own streets, through the neighborhoods, against the backdrop of a softly dimming sky. Windows flickered with light, puddles rippled, garage doors inched closed for the night. The air smelled like clean laundry.
Most of us will never attempt to run a marathon. I can do a 10K, but I’ve no desire to run 26 miles. That kind of feat takes strong feet, discipline, and mental grit that can keep you progressing despite physical agony. I can imagine, though, that the ecstasy of crossing your finish line – finally! – makes every painful moment worthwhile.
If you’ve survived a marathon, you can put one of those “26.2” bumper stickers on your car and drive with pride. You have bragging rights for the rest of your life. You’ve equaled the task of Pheidippides, the Greek soldier who took the news of the Persians’ defeat in the Battle of Marathon all the way to Athens – without stopping, says the legend.
According to legend, the brave Pheidippides, after he had delivered the news of victory, collapsed and died.
Some Boston Marathon runners last night didn’t survive their run, either, defeated by dark, unnamed sources of discord caused by an enemy that the FBI and CIA and police and the President cannot yet name. The word “terrorism” hangs heavy like fog. We feel and see the depth of its darkness in the same manner as fog looming before us, blocking any sight of the sun.
No doubt you, like me, are gloomy to the core of your soul and long to wrap yourself in the warmth of some kind of comfort.
We all wrap ourselves in something to protect from the hurt – our own grief, perhaps, a thick blanket of tears and pity, all-encompassed by the tragedy of the present.
Or we wrap ourselves in distraction. Instead of dwelling on the tragedy, we occupy our minds with work, family, small joys, the reminder that you are alive and breathing. What to make of this awful event? It’s beyond us. It’s past.
Maybe our defense against the terror is a wall of brick-heavy rage, directed at unknown forces of evil, at the terrorists who must have perpetrated this act, at officials who couldn’t find the bomb, at God Almighty Himself for allowing this to happen. At God Himself. If God cares for the world like people claim He does, then why doesn’t God disable the bombs before they wound and kill innocent runners?
Today, I am drawn to the words of the poet who wrote Lamentations, a book of sorrows in the Old Testament, who writes about his enemies and how they terrorized him to the point of utter despair, leaving him without help, without anything to wrap himself in except despair.
He has broken my teeth with gravel, he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace. I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone, and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
All that suffering – and God still has great love? This is what he wraps himself in.
I think of Job, the man world famous now for his ancient battle with the devil, his completely unjust loss of everything – his family, his health, his wealth, his whole life. His life exploded around him, and an immensely dark time settled around him.
I think of a sermon I listened to on my iPhone while I ran a few weeks ago. Tim Dilena shared potentially the most powerful sermon I have ever heard (and I’ve heard a thousand, at least). It was based on Job 38:1. I can’t link directly to the sermon, but you can visit the Brooklyn Tabernacle’s media center and select March 19th’s sermon “What to Pray in your Toughest Time.” You can download the podcast in iTunes, too. Tim speaks on Job’s story, and he addresses our darkest moments when it seems all is lost in the face of evil. When evil has won. It’s a riveting message.
Job 38:1, after chapters and chapters of silence as Job asks why, God, did you allow this terrible, terrible thing?, says:
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm.
Then the Lord spoke, he spoke, and he spoke in the middle of the storm. The darkness threatened to overtake Job and ruin his life! But God spoke to him from the storm.
The powers of darkness do not get to have the last word. God does.
If you’re thrashing about, grasping for something to hold onto in the face of your horror, in the wake of yet another American tragedy, wrap yourself tightly in this: There is a God. He loves you greatly, he longs to be compassionate towards you, and he will shower you in peace. Not shrapnel. Not blood.
With love, and peace, and the strength to keep going.