This past week undoubtedly has been a very difficult one. I would not exaggerate to say that it has been one of the most difficult weeks of my life, and I think many Americans and those who have cried and prayed with us will agree. Tragedies in the Boston Marathon, in Waco, Texas, and the prolonged shootings and chasings that kept all six million of Boston/Cambridge residents in their homes have weighed heavily on our hearts. On top of this, we hear of all other tragedies in the world. The earthquake that shook Sichuan, China. The countless wars and deaths that we do not hear about on the media. The place we call our home is a broken and hurt place.
As I listened to the loud sirens from my dorm room Thursday night, I was studying for a quiz that I had the next morning. I was busily conjugating verbs and memorizing vocabulary when my phone buzzed. A police officer at MIT had been shot and killed. The suspects had hijacked a car and were on the run, traveling west through Harvard and to… where? I jumped. The sirens! The wails! The gravity of what had happened had hit me at that moment. I could no longer concentrate. These verbs slipped from my mind as I avidly searched and read through the news online. With increasing time my heart clenched in fear and shock, and I realized that this was going to be another difficult and long night. The series of events that occurred throughout that night, I am assuming you are all familiar with already. The media has been covering this constantly, and everywhere were pasted fear, urgency, and uncertainty.
Some time during the deep, dark night, wooed by the sirens I collapsed onto my bed. I kept praying: “Oh, God. Have Mercy! Keep all of us safe. I pray for the soul of the killed MIT police officer. I pray for his family. I pray for anyone who has been wounded during this incident. I pray for the Watertown residents. I pray…” I choked. I had not been able to properly mourn after the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. My heart had been heavy, laden with sorrows and shock unresolved. But life went on after Monday, our faces held up high against fear saying, “We will not be scared into paralysis. We will move on, stronger than ever. They chose the wrong city.” We said. I was one of that number. But inside, I was paralyzed. I was scared. I was so, so, so sad. And Thursday night, the dam broke loose.
I combed through the thick and messy knots in my memories. I remembered the victims of the marathon, those who lost their limbs, those who lost their lives- Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and Martin Richard. And I finally cried into the darkness of my room, letting out all the pent up thoughts and emotions. Their lives cut so short, so unexpectedly. The promise of life and future proven so vulnerable to evil works. As I prayed, I felt yet another question that I had been avoiding tugging at my heartstrings. Why them? Why not me? I, like them, had hopes and worked hard. I tried to do my best in everything, be friendly to my neighbors, and make the world a better place. But why do I have yet another day to live but not them? Why can I still walk on my own two feet and study for my quiz tomorrow while not them?
The darkness crept into my heart. I was not special. I was just as vulnerable, I was also mortal; it could have been me. Or, I could die any day and I will not know when. It could be tomorrow. I became scared. It is really difficult to admit this, but I was scared for myself. I realized that I had been shrouding myself in the invisible cloak of immortality, thinking I was impervious, immovable, and indefatigable. All of this illusion shattered in the darkness of that night. I cried even more, helplessly burying my head in the pillow so that my roommates would not hear. Oh! The futility of hoping! The futility of living! I thought. The memories of reading Heidegger and discussing authenticity as being aware of imminent death crowded into my mind. I had been saying all these things without actually knowing. My existence felt so light that I was clutching at my bed covers hoping I would not float upwards. Only my heavy heart kept me down.
And sometime during this existential agony, I fell asleep.
When I awoke, I instinctively reached for my phone. One of the suspects had died. The second one was in Watertown. I scrolled through the emails to see if I still had class that day. I didn’t. My eyes were hurting because I had not been sleeping well for the past few days. I dropped my phone and went back to sleep some more. I remember praying: “God, please. No nightmares.”
All of Friday was a daze. I was sorrowful, but I was finally facing my fear, my paralysis. It hurt a lot, but I knew that this was the only way I would heal.
I avoided talking to God the whole day. I knew He wanted to talk to me, and wanted me to talk to Him, but I just felt like I didn’t have the strength anymore. I murmured prayers for everyone involved in Watertown, but I said ‘Amen!’ before He could reply.
Instead, to occupy my mind, I kept my eyes peeled on the computer screen. I was reading the news, waiting for all of this to be over. And then I saw Dzhokhar’s face. Everywhere I looked, I saw this young man’s face pasted on all headline news sites. Why? Why? Why? I didn’t ask him. He was probably already asking that himself, the whole world out to search him while his own world was also turned upside down in a couple of days. This is not to say that what he did was not horrendous and that he brought incalculable suffering to many in this city and beyond. But I felt sad for him too. I think I was drawn by a certain suffering. It was death. It was hopelessness. It was urgency. It was an unresolved desperateness. I read through Chechnya’s struggle and about Syria, about AIDs, about everything. I felt my finger creeping upwards. We were all oppressed by these evil forces. We were all perpetrators. We were all victims. We were accomplices with evil, and God! God, where are You?!
I knew the answer to this all too well. I breathed out loudly and finally talked to Him. I said, “God, I don’t have the strength to cry anymore.” That’s okay. He seemed to say. “I can’t pray.” That’s okay too. “I am not mad. I just… need a break from constant reminders about suffering and death.” I understand. “I mean, there are so many people in this world. So many in Boston who are aching. We are supposed to pray for them, but how can we do this when our own hearts are down?” Silence. You love them? He asked. “Well, ye-yes.” I stuttered, hoping that it was not going to be one of those times where God asks a question that slices through bone and marrow and I realize that my heart has been in the wrong place all along.
That’s why you are hurting. He said. Did I not tell you to love others as I love you? Of course this is difficult. But don’t stop trying. Don’t stop praying.
Forgive my reference to the Lord of the Rings. But I had a flashback to the scene in the movie where on the way to Mordor in a cave, Sam fights Shelob the spider alone after he discovers that Frodo had died (which wasn’t true, but Sam believed he was then). All hope was gone, his beloved killed, and in the darkness Shelob was hunting him too. All of a sudden, when Sam cried, the light of Galadriel shone. It was hope in the darkest of times, and for a second, time stopped. Why do we have to do this? What do we have to fight for when there is so much suffering in this world? The Spider paused. Sam fought Shelob bravely. But that wasn’t the end, as you Lord of the Rings fans know.
The conclusion isn’t that good always prevails. The conclusion is that we need to not only know that good prevails, but also to believe it. And as a Christian, I have to answer “Why?” with- ‘Because Christ died for me in spite of the greatest “Why did he have to die?” question.’ He died for all of us because through humiliation, suffering, and death, He was able to resurrect an undying hope and life into our souls. And while in the darkest hour of the night, I wasn’t so sure about how to answer some of life’s most difficult questions, I knew that I was holding onto something. The new dawn breaks through the horizon, and I utter a praise of thanks to God for another day. I have to get through so many how’s to touch and see that the hope of ‘Why’ is there. It’s in my heart. It’s before me. It’s name is Jesus. Christ Jesus.
And In His love, I do hope and pray that the whole community of Boston and America can also pray for Dzhokhar, and together lift up our faces against the greatest threat– the inability to hope.