Saturday, April 18, 2015

In Light (and Dark) of the Murrah Bombing

Taken on one of my many trips to the Bombing Memorial
Tomorrow Oklahoma pauses to reflect on a searing, scarring day for all of us. The day sin tried to win. The day murder and violence tried to steal our joy and purpose and routine. The day Timothy McVeigh pulled a truck loaded with explosives, parked it in front of a building filled with children and adults, and walked away as his anger blew up.

I sat in a basement room in my algebra class, seventh grade, 13 miles away. Several guys playing checkers said they watched the pieces rattle across the board. I didn't notice a thing. But within a couple of hours, we were all gathered, watching a television, worrying -- and, in a moment, aware of living in a much scarier world.

Most of us didn't leave the television for days. Some incredible people rushed to the site and jumped in. I remember watching as men and women scaled the gaping wound of the building, debris bleeding out, looking for survivors... and remains. I knew one victim, remotely, through a dear family member. I know one responder, one of the very first on the scene, who still carries the immutable, unspeakable horror. All of us do, to one degree or another.

Let's not pretend sin isn't real. My new found faith is soft, and warm, and joyful, and loving, but groundless if I can't acknowledge that in big and little ways we are capable of destroying each other.

This isn't a diatribe, or a rant against the evils of the world. This is a lament. And, a moment of clarity for me. Even 20 years later, I still approach this day with a familiar, deep ache.

I've been thinking a lot about sin lately. Such an ugly word. One I react to like a blow from a bat, before I even hear the context in which it's spoken. One I've heard used to create an impenetrable line between God's (self-selected) beloved, and whoever they can't imagine living life next to.

A concept I'm finally unafraid to address, because I can't pretend that even my "good enough" life doesn't cause, and participate in, harm.

Sin could have been the most unifying concept in the Christian faith (and possibly between faiths), if we hadn't used it to define and reject the other. We ALL break communion between each other, we all break communion with God. We all participate in power structures that abuse, whether overtly or not (think of choices to buy cheaper goods that come at a cost to the animals or humans at the bottom of the supply chain, tolerating corruption in our leaders, politically protecting our wallets instead of our fellows, refusing to acknowledge our privilege).

The ugliness of 20 years ago is extreme, and feels unforgivable. I'm not conflating the hidden sins of every day "good enough" lives with the instantaneous destruction of that one. Nor am I neglecting the shared brokenness of each. Each need the grace of a big God, and the effort of big-hearted humans to replace destruction for healing. Empathy for anger. Genuineness for cattiness. Prayer for vitriol. Imagination for scars.

These words don't remove the ache of the Murrah Bombing for me. But, in a strange sense, they give it motion. They remind me of the work to be done, bringing Kingdom Come. They cause me to make meaning of the reality that the peaceful, upside-down Kingdom of Jesus already existed that day.

They remind me to shine the light of a perfect, human-god life into my own, and examine the deep places where I don't root out the subtle and not-so-subtle sins that break me and break my relationships.

I hope I never lose the ache. I never stop grieving the lives lost. I never stop working against the brokenness that creates the vacuum filled with this violence. May we mourn tomorrow -- deeply, honestly, and filled with awareness.

May we mourn the lives. Mourn the lost sense of safety. Mourn the depth of human brokenness.

I pray, that by confronting the darkness head on like that, we will more clearly see the grace God fills us with, and express that grace with renewed hope and motivation.

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