What If?

I’ve been catching news clips and posts about the Boston bombings. It’s horrific and tragic on so many levels. I can only imagine what it would feel like to have my legs blown off, or to be the parents or fiance of someone killed so tragically. My heart goes out with prayers to all those who were traumatically effected whether through direct injury and loss or through being an eyewitness of such a horror. Each and every one of these individuals will need support and encouragement to overcome and to continue to live life full of hope. Many of these were runners who are already people of greater perseverance and ambition than most, but this will push them to a new level of endurance. The marathon training they have endured is now the foundation for their next level. I pray God’s strength and courage for the journey, his hope and faith for breakthrough, and the encouragement of family and community to cheer them on and wipe their tears. When the media stops reporting and life goes back to normal for the rest of us they will be facing their hardest days.

Today I saw the picture of the 19 year old suspect and my heart is heavy for him and his family. What happened to this boy? So far the accounts of people who knew him do not match up to this act of terrorism. Was all this darkness hiding beneath the surface or was he pulled into a plot by his older brother? Either way, it is tragic that a young man would throw away a future of opportunity for an act of terrorism. What was the turning point? What signs were missed? It didn’t come out of nowhere. I’m sure we will be finding out more in the days to come…his childhood, his home country, his brother’s influence, his disappointments, his family. I have three sons and I wonder,  how does a parent cope with this kind of news? The family needs our prayers as well as the boy. If he is sane he must be terrified at this point with the realization of what he has done. He now faces a choice: to partner with evil and throw the rest of his life away or to partner with the truth, with accountability and justice, and hopefully rehabilitation. Either way life will be hard for him; unbearable, I would think.

Life doesn’t offer us easy answers. More often it causes us to question. I don’t know enough about this boy or the involvement of those who know him and his brother. I am not in a place to judge or criticize. I am not looking for someone to blame. I too am seeking to understand and asking how these tragedies could be avoided. It sounds like the 19 year old was well liked. It sounds like the 26 year old was lonely. There was something else going on beneath the surface of what other’s saw; a time bomb of unresolved childhood trauma buried beneath the surface, set to go off at any time.

Working daily with survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking, I have learned first hand that there are no easy answers. We have found over and over that where family and community failed in taking care of women and children, these same ones are groomed to be victims or abusers. The vulnerabilities of the women are almost always related to family issues starting in childhood which have deeply scarred them. So I ask myself over and over, what if we really loved our neighbors as ourselves? What if we got involved where there is hurt and disappointment? What if we started paying attention to the pain around us and finding holistic ways to address it? What if we were more generous with our resources, more respectful with our words, more sincere in our prayers, more caring of the pain of others? Would that make a difference? We will most likely never meet the needs of the world but if we can reach out to our neighbor and know them more than surface level, we may be able to build bridges of hope. We might even prevent a 19 year boy or his 26 year old brother, from believing the lies and partnering with horrendous evil.

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