This morning I heard a news report about U.S. officials traveling to Russia to interview the parents of the two Boston Marathon bombers. There have been numerous stories in the media about their possible motivations, who else might have been involved in training or encouraging them. etc. There will be many more before this ends.
I’ve noticed when someone commits an unimaginable act there is a rush to explain. A need to understand. A deep longing to fully parse the motives, emotions, thoughts, and history of anyone who does the kinds of things these men are accused of doing. Why?
I find myself drawn, like many of us, to these explanations. Wanting them and digesting them myself. I begin to wonder if, however, my attraction, my need for explanation is as much about my soul and motivations as it is about theirs.
If I can explain – if we can comprehend – the reason why someone does such things, then we also seem to be able to say – “Not me. I am glad that couldn’t have been me. Because he was a radical Muslim. Because she was abused as a child herself. Because they were isolated and depressed.”
My need for explanations about the darkness in our world keeps me from looking at the darkness in me. And it’s there. I don’t think I am likely to bomb a building. Or my neighbor to murder my family in our sleep. But there is in every human a darkness, a corruption even. Paul in his letter to the Romans writes “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NRSV).
May the darkness that seems to prevail around me drive me to examine my own soul and heart. I cannot denounce the evil in the world without paying attention to the sin in my own heart. I cannot cry out against the darkness without first shining the light of God into the murky interiors of my own soul.
This week has been a crazy one – the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday… the poison-laden letters sent to President Obama, a U.S. Senator and others… and last night the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. The latter does not appear to be anything malicious but a horrible accident but at this point no one is sure what happened or why.
It is hard not to see these events and attempt to link them together. Some conspiracy. Some coordinated effort to terrorize and unsettle. Some thread of connection that we just haven’t seen. But – as far as I know – they are totally unrelated. And that may be the most unsettling, terrifying thing of all.
We humans, made in the image of God, have a God-like desire to see and understand. To peer into the chaos of life and the world and see order. Sometimes this leads to marvelous discoveries. Sometimes – and I suspect now is one of them – it leads us to grasp at an order that isn’t there.
Random things happen. Accidents abound. The wonder and power of faith is to believe when there is no explanation. When the order we hope and want isn’t there. When people act in ways that are inexplicable and unbearable. When circumstances swirl like a spring tornado into the peace of our lives. That’s when faith is hardest, but is also the most needed and the most potent. I need that kinds of faith this week.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6(NRSV)
Yesterday I noticed that my yard had blossomed, seemingly overnight. (Lest you think I am merely unobservant, a thoughtful church member noticed the same thing in her yard this morning.) What had been bare shrubs and branches had burst into bloom. Winter seems at least to be yielding to spring in a visible way.
The natural world speaks God’s word to us if we have eyes to see! How many times do I look at a situation and bemoan the fact that no solution is possible. Or that God must not care. Or that what I thought to be true is not. Then a solution springs into view… God speaks seemingly out of nowhere… Profound truth comes into sharp focus anew.
As we celebrate the ongoing power and reality of Jesus’ resurrection, take a look around. What seemed dead will come to life. The barren will be fruitful. Christ is risen and will raise us anew! Take hope as you wait. Spring does not come all at once or everywhere in the same way. But the buds are ready to burst into view and the blossoms will come forth in time.
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God. (Isaiah 35:1-2 NIV)
Last fall I posted a piece on mental illness and the church. For many reasons this issue resonates with me – personal experience with friends and family struggling with depression, bipolar disorder, and a host of other mental illness. I have found a significant slice of the church communities I have served also struggle directly with mental illness and struggle with it in their families and friendships.
This weekend the son of Rick Warren committed suicide. He and his wife, Kay, shared a powerful witness around this tragedy that led to my writing again about it today. (If you’ve not seen it, you should read it here. I want to lift up some of the things in Rick Warren’s message that bear repeating to the faith community:
(1) Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, was treated with medicine and medical procedures – as he should have been. While therapy and counseling and spiritual disciplines and Christian community help those who struggle with these demons, the complex chemical processes in the brain are at the root of these illnesses. We have come a long way in the medical world from the days when people were locked in “lunatic” asylums. The church also needs to not lock this issue away.
(2) Mental illness is a devastating problem for those who face it and their families, friends, and other social relationships. The inner darkness that men and women struggle to overcome (and children and teens too for that matter) affect those around them. The darkness overflows into the networks of relationship in people’s lives. At its worst, it erupts into violence as we’ve seen all too clearly in our day.
(3) We – the church – have something to contribute. We have a message of hope and victory that we can offer to those who struggle with mental illness. We also – and perhaps more importantly – can offer places of grace, welcome, and love to people who may not be able to find it anywhere else.
Join me in praying for the Warren’s but also for those who suffer, who struggle, who need our love and grace.