By Jason Hines –
Like everyone else, I was shocked and saddened by the bombing of the Boston Marathon on Monday. However, I had difficulty summoning the sadness that I knew that I felt. I was not personally connected to the tragedy at the time, though I know people in the area and checked to make sure they were OK. On Wednesday night, a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West, Texas, which is about 20 miles north of my home in Waco. Because of the scarcity of major cities in Texas anything within a half hour of Waco gets called Waco. I spent the time that night hoping that they did not close the major highway that runs through Waco and West and on to Dallas. I had a flight to Boston the next day to attend my ten year reunion at Harvard Law School. The road wasn’t closed and I spent the next 24 hours telling people that I was nowhere near the danger that many people were experiencing and that affected friends we have in Waco.
I ended up coming to Cambridge for a reunion that is not going to happen. It isn’t happening because the school cancelled it after Boston, Cambridge, and surrounding towns went on lockdown after the Marathon Bombing suspects killed an MIT officer and fled to Watertown. Finally the gravity of the events of this week truly hit home. Harvard is mere blocks away from MIT. I have friends who went there and visited the campus often. The picture of one of the suspects is from a 7-11 that is literally down the street and around the corner from the duplex where I lived for two years when I was here and where I happen to be staying this weekend. We frequented that store on late night junk food runs during my law school years, and I considered stopping there nostalgically Thursday night. As I spent the day indoors, I took calls from people who now had legitimate reason to be concerned for my safety. We joyfully went to the supermarket almost the instant they lifted the lockdown. But as I ruminated on the events of this week, some thoughts came to mind.
I think I was experiencing something that I am calling tragedy fatigue. These types of incidents used to be few and far between for us in the United States. (I fully realize that these types of events are a way of life for many people around the world.) But in just over two years on HineSight I’ve written about the shooting at the Gabby Giffords event in AZ, the shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, CO, and the shooting in Newtown, CT. And I’m not counting my own personal reflections on grief and God at the death of my wife’s cousin. I am growing tired of having to reach into the well of despair and grief again and again and again. To feel for the people suffering in Boston and the people suffering in West was just too much for me, as much as I knew and know that deserve all the sympathy, empathy, love and prayers that I can give. As the time has passed this week my hearts have gone out to them and I wish them a peace and a comfort that I believe only God can give.
When we came back from the supermarket my friend informed us that the second suspect had been captured, bleeding out in the back of a boat in a yard in Watertown. After taking the time to think about that, I expressed my thoughts to him. I wondered what it must be like to be nineteen years old, bleeding out in the back of some random person’s yard. Media reports told us that he idolized his older brother. Was he grieving his loss? How did he feel about running over his dying brother in order to escape himself? Was he feeling regret? Despair? Sadness? As I considered who and what I was when I was 19 years old, I found my heart connecting with this young man who had made so many wrong decisions over the course of one week. I was taken aback by the sympathy I felt. It was so much easier to consider his evil behavior and to joke about how we would use the weapons in the house to subdue him should he show up at our door, as I we did earlier. In that same instant, two verses came to mind. In Matt 7:11 Jesus says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Then in Matt 10: 29-31 He says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” I believe that God wants to give good gifts to us all, even 19 year old murderers. I believe that God still finds Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be more valuable than many sparrows, and I believe He grieves over the Tamerlan’s death. I believe that when God loved the world enough to send His only begotten Son, that world included these two brothers, just like I believe it included the rest of us who have never done anything as heinous. If I am going to call myself a disciple of Christ, then I have to find the strength to pray for people who do horrible things, as Jesus was able to do for the very men who nailed him to a cross. Our hearts and prayers and love should go out to the families of the many victims of the marathon bombing, and the police officers who laid their lives down to protect ours. Our love and prayers should go out to the families in West, Texas who are grieving, and to those who are hoping beyond hope for the miracle that will bring a lost family member home. But I think God also wants us to remember a 19 year old boy lying in a hospital bed tonight, who most likely will have to struggle with the mental burden of perpetrating such horrible violence. I think God wants us to remember a bewildered Chechen family trying to figure out how their lives went so wrong so quickly. After all, God loves them too.