Like the rest of America, I’ve been glued to the TV all afternoon and evening. If, by some miracle, you haven’t heard about the explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon today, Google it. Perhaps like me, you heard about it early on, only moments after it happened. I read it on Twitter before I saw it on the internet news. And since then, I’ve been in tears.
Because it’s happening again.
When the Oklahoma City bombing happened in the mid 90s, I had babies at home and I hardly watched TV at all. I knew about it only vaguely, and was horrified about what little I knew. But I didn’t cry.
When the Columbine High School attack happened in the late 90s, I was in shock. I stared at the TV, held my kids a little closer, and wondered about such a strange and faraway thing happening on American soil with American kids. But I didn’t cry.
On 9/11, I froze. I babbled. I watched endless amounts of TV and I was dumbfounded. Like the rest of America, I couldn't believe it happened to us. I still can't. It changed us forever. But I didn’t cry.
Over the years there have been many more horrific stories of mass murder in one form or another: massacres at restaurants, in malls, on college campuses, in grocery store parking lots, in office buildings, in theaters, and most recently, in a lovely little elementary school in Connecticut. Somewhere along the way, as I watched horror after horror on TV, from the safety of my small town Maine home, I began to cry.
It started as a small gasp with a few tears leaking out. Over the years, with so much terrible news, the tears came more freely. My husband told me to quit watching the news when the tragic things happen. He told me I watch too much. Perhaps I do. But some part of me feels that I have to watch. Other than pray, it's the only way I feel like I can, in a sense, do something for those people - those tragic victims who have lost loved ones in the worst possible way. I want to be there for them, to hug them, to cry with them, to scream with them. But I am here, tucked away in Maine, and they don't know me. So watching their pain and crying from afar is the only way I can do that.
And now Boston.
My heart is breaking once again today as I watch the video coverage of the injuries, the mayhem, and the tears falling all over Boston. All over America.
I sit in front of the television, captivated, not wanting to look at the horror, but unable to look away. I wince, cry, even shield my eyes from the images of blood, smoke, and of the people running and screaming. Yet I peek through my fingers. I must look. Helpless at home, it is the only way to “be there” for those unfortunate people on the scene. Out my window I see the same sunshine and blue-sky day that is huddling over Boston. This time, for me anyway, it was much closer to home. And this time, I can’t seem to stop crying.
I find myself asking God, why. Why?! Why is this world such a mess? Why do these random acts of violence keep happening? Who would do this? What is this world coming to?
I watch my friends on Twitter and Facebook. They too are in shock, grieving, questioning, hurting, and they are frightened. I am frightened. Who will be next? Will it be us? What about my family, my friends? Is there any place that’s safe anymore?
And soon, when the dust from the latest tragedy begins to settle, we will all take a deep breath and try to carry on with our lives. We will have to find a way to cope. A way to move on, to find comfort, to heal.
One of the questions many folks ask at times like this is, Where is God? How could God allow this? Those people weren’t doing anything wrong. They were coming together as a community, celebrating, enjoying a beautiful spring day and some friendly competition. Why would God allow this? Because, after all, if God is in control, as many of us believe he is, that means he could have stopped this.
He could have stopped Columbine and Newtown and 9/11 and the movie theater massacre in Colorado. He could have stopped Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, and the countless tornadoes that kill people every year. We could go on forever with that line of thinking. He could have stopped the atrocities of Saddam Hussein and of Hitler. He could have stopped all the child molesters and rapists. He could have stopped so much of the pain.
But the problem comes with the issue of free will. God gave us – all of us – free will. He gave our world the freedom to be and to choose. With those options, one of the options is to choose evil. It’s a simple concept, yet incredibly layered, complicated, and hard to understand. Many people say that that’s not good enough, and why should we trust a God who is so hand’s off? I don’t have a good answer for them.
For me, there is comfort to be found in God’s presence. That’s it. That’s all there is. From our limited perspective, he doesn’t seem to be intervening much these days – at least not on a big scale. Yet, who’s to say there wouldn’t be many, many more tragedies if God weren’t intervening?
The Bible tells us that even when God isn’t intervening, even when he allows those hard things to happen, he is still with us – for comfort, for peace, for hope. Anyone who knows him and knows his word and knows his truth, knows about that presence. An ever present help in times of trouble. That’s what he tells us. I’ve had experience enough to know it’s true. I’ve also had experience enough to know that this won’t be the last time I’ll wince and cry and ask why. So I keep going back to God – the only thing that makes sense in this senseless world.
But in spite of the peace and comfort he gives, I still keep crying. I know he is here. I know he is in Boston. I know he is with those who are hurting, suffering, and who have lost loved ones. I know he gave us each other, and made ordinary people into heroes today. I know that and it brings me some measure of comfort.
But I still can’t stop crying. And he is here, grieving with me.
Copyright © 2013 - Paulla Estes