Bad Things Happen
For fear of this post sounding preachy, I should begin by saying that I am writing this to help me make sense of the overbearing feeling of shock and dread that is so easily sunk into during weeks like this. I blog. That’s what bloggers do, right? We feel compelled on some level to share our experience, strength and hope with the world, in hopes that someone finds it useful and inspiring; a platform to discuss our workout plans, our recipes and our innermost fears. Journals are nothing new, there’s just something inside some of us who feel the need to press the ‘publish” button and send our entries out into webiverse for public consumption and connection. That’s what this post is for me in this moment.
For me, today, it’s hard to fight the feeling that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. People do bad things; to each other, to the planet and to themselves. The chaos is undeniable. Has it always been this way? Are things getting worse everyday or are we just more aware of what’s happening in the world. Once upon a time, it would have taken days or weeks, or maybe even months to find out that a far-away country had been devastated by a tsunami or that a factory had blown up killing workers and flattening a small town. Or that an unknown person had taken it upon themselves to determine when and where innocent strangers would take their last breaths.
Today, thanks to 24-hour news coverage and the staggering ability of the Internet to connect people in different corners of the earth, we have instant access to the world’s disasters and tragedies. The world has probably always had its share of super storms and murderers; we now just have unprecedented knowledge of when, how and to whom they happen. Nancy Grace would have had a field day with Jack the Ripper. Anderson Cooper would have rowed his boat right out to the site of the Titanic sinking.
I wasn’t in Boston Monday, but I had friends who were. I spent most of my morning in a songwriting session incessantly and excitedly checking my phone for the athlete text alerts I signed up for so that I could track a friend’s progress in the marathon. That afternoon I was frantically checking my phone praying for some sort of communication from her so that I would know she wasn’t injured, or worse, dead. She had finished the marathon only fifteen minutes before the explosions. That gave her plenty of time to make it away from the finish line, but at that time it was still unclear if there were more bombs waiting and ready to explode. I was so grateful that she was able to send me a quick text after it happened and that it was clear she was ok. I know the level of anxiety that I experienced from the safety of my living room watching the CNN coverage and I can’t begin and don’t want to imagine the fear and anxiety of those who were actually present, injured or clinging to life. It’s not about me.
I remember having a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago about the world and how difficult it is to not think that it’s on the verge of going down in flames. This particular friend is a social activist and has taken part in many a social movement, including Occupy Nashville. We don’t agree on everything, but our differences make for meaningful opportunities to learn from one another. She, like me, is an empath to the point of occasional emotional debilitation. We talked about the animal rescue project that she was soon to start working on. We talked about the people who were dealing with the salt dome collapse and subsequent sinkhole that had swallowed 13 acres deep in Cajun country in Bayou Corne, Louisiana; and the apparent and confusing media blackout on the subject. She and I tend to have intense conversations. She asked me how I felt about the current state of the world. My immediate gut-reaction answer was that even amidst the seemingly endless bad, I still feel like there are good people out there doing good things. Even after Monday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon, I still feel that way.
For every coward who plants a bomb then hides in safety as it detonates, there are a hundred people running towards the blast; their immediate gut-reaction being the need to help the injured. For every person who is right now, abusing a dog or another human being, there are countless others working for little reward or recognition in order to bring them into safer situations. They’ll probably never enter into their own fifteen minutes of fame, but I would bet they’re ok with that. For every person stealing from their neighbors, there are thousands of others giving of their time, energy and resources to make the lives of others easier.
I find myself easily mired in the whys: Why do these terrible things happen? Why are there so many bad people in the world? Why is there so much evil?
One thing I know for sure today is that I don’t know much. I’m not capable of fully understanding the whys and I’m probably not meant to. What I feel in my heart is that this week’s events are an opportunity to see through the brokenness of the individuals who perpetuate evil and into the aftermath of their deeds where God is real and present and working in the hearts, minds and bodies of those people running towards the tragedy, not away from it.
I was in the book store yesterday and came across a title called Living the Jesus Resolution, a book about God inviting us to meet him in whatever it is we’re doing, whether it be doing the dishes, working or looking for answers to life’s troubles. I flipped the book open and landed on pg. 130, where the subject of the lesson was marathons. (There are no coincidences.) The author, Casandra Martin, discusses the preparation for and the sacrifices it takes to run a marathon and that it is also a perfect metaphor for the great “picture of life.” I bought the book, took it home and re-read the pages that inspired me to make it part of my collection. The following is a prayer Martin writes in the end of this section:
“My Jesus Resolution today is to run well. I am going to find joy in running with those who point me to Jesus. I am going to be thankful for the way each step brings me closer to His heart. I don’t want to get caught up in running for a prize that isn’t worth the race. I want to remember why I am running. He will be there when I cross the finish line to welcome me home and say, “Well done.””
She follows the prayer with a simple question that I’ve decided will be the only one I ask myself for these next twenty-four hours:
“How will you run the race today?”