Saturday, September 19, 2015

Grieving when great evil is done unto someone you love

 I wrote most of this blog this summer as I reacted to my sister being brutally assaulted. I initially wrote it without naming her, but since then she has publicly told her own story. You can read her own brave words here. Her fiance Josh has written his own thoughts here.

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Recently something terrible happened to someone I love, worst nightmare kind of a thing. In the mornings after I heard I would wake up at four or five AM, find myself staring at the ceiling (this never happens to me) and instead would come out to living room and open my Bible and pray, and pray, and pray as the sun rose over Manokwari.

Evil. There is so much evil in the world. The Western humanist perspective that I am steeped in likes to think the world is so sanitized, but even we usually can't excuse things like rape, especially when premeditated, especially when acted against the innocent and uninvolved. How can it be? I find myself calling my daughter my sister's name because I remember her that age as well, big blue eyes and toddling around.  I can't even describe it, the horrible evil my sister experienced. How can someone do such things? For the first time I read the imprecatory Psalms as my own. They are suddenly are real, with accusations of evil men making plans against the innocent, and my heart cries that it is not right, it should not be, and that God sees this horrible injustice.


In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises...
His victims are crushed, they collapse; 
they fall under his strength. 
He says to himself, "God has forgotten; 
he covers his face and never sees." 
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless...
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. 
The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. 
Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; 
Call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out...
The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land.
You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; 
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, 
defending the fatherless and the oppressed, 
in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. 
- Psalm 10

Why? This question doesn't stay with me long. It is the biggest question, but it is one I have come to peace with before this moment. I believe there's evil in the world, it's not a question of why for me, evil will affect us, tragedy will come, in different ways and different times and different degrees to different people.

But oh, that it happens, that it happened to one I love! I shake my fist and wish I could erase pain and the affects of evil, because they are there. I think of the family of my friends who were at the Boston bombing. All the medical help in the world doesn't give back legs. One act of evil and physical bodies are forever in pain. Now, while I am amazed by my sister's confidence and grace, still I know the road is long, and I wish I could take that away.

I dissolve in tears over a meal as I talk about it, because when I think about the darkness of a room and the terror there and the brokenness that can be inflicted on a human being, a soul, one I love, I am undone. My husband holds my hand as the kids babble over their lunches and I pray with a shaky voice, praising God that if the gospel is true, there is redemption. In the deepest of darkness, in the most shattered of places, there is always healing, always hope, evil does not win, and there is always always redemption. Even there. In these moments I cling to that.

She is living it out, actually, as the days go by. She laughs. She writes. She shows that when some one's foundation is built on the strength of God, even when a storm comes that shakes the very core of life, the foundation does not come apart, the most essential things remain. You come through the worst of nightmares and the love and joy of Jesus are still there. I am amazed to see it. But then I see the bruises still visible on her neck and there is still grief, still processing.

We went to the beach that Saturday. The children run and build castles and splash in the water and collect shells. Picnic lunches are eaten. It is beautiful. Just a couple of people know the weight in my heart, and that my mind is partly on the other side of the world, and I am in constant prayer for her and them. How do you live in a world where kids play and giggle in the sand and a man assaults and attempts murder? I put on a snorkel mask and wade into the water alone. It's been 8 years since I last did this, and it's indescribable. I swim to the drop-off, where the reef drops lower to white sand that sinks deep. Here where there is space the tropical sun filters through the ocean water in brilliant green rays that make me catch my breath in wonder, all senses are captured. I am surrounded by tiny brilliant blue fish, thousands of them, and I reach out into the rays and the fish swim between my fingers. I make my way to a spot on the reef where I can sit on a clump of coral and I sit, water all around me, cocooned in ocean. It's breathtakingly beautiful. I pray.

The contrast between the beauty and the ugliness in this same world is unsettling. I think of the movie Noah, the way he was portrayed as fighting the growing ugliness and then growing desperate when he realized the root of what he was fighting was present in him and his own family and would not be washed away with the flood. Most evil people act out partly because evil was done unto them. What was done to this man? The beginnings of evil are so tame. The end is so ferociously destructive.

Do not be afraid. It's said many times in scripture to people who have every right to be afraid. Mary is about to be an inexplicably pregnant teenager, shamed by her community, then a refugee fleeing a murderous king, and she would one day watch her son tortured to death. Don't be afraid? Safety in this life is an illusion. Life is not safe. Following God is not safe. There is much to fear for me, my children, my family. It's not just a “what if”. Things WILL happen. I am watching them happen this week. But I am struck that I need not be afraid. There is plenty to fear but I need not be afraid. . Because when the very worst nightmare happens, He is there. Because in the aftermath, the Spirit will fill, will be there in the midst of grief, will bring healing. Because in the end, all will be made right, justice will be done, all things will be made new.

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The shock has passed now. The shock waves of crisis have faded and now she walks in the daily small acts of healing and processing.

Sometimes we act as though we hold to faith despite the evil and suffering of the world. I think it is in times when evil and suffering is real that each simple line of what I believe intersects most clearly with this world and life. In these times I am not afraid that it is trite, instead I speak each line with trembling voice because of the power of what it means to this situation if it is all true. A beautiful world, broken and lost. No shit, when you really see it like we did this summer, it is so lost, and we just tasted some of the oppression that so many experience repeatedly, even daily.

A coming judge who delays that deserved judgement in order to instead come and take judgement on Himself and offer redemption to all who would follow Him. Including that man. Even him. And so we follow Jesus. Hard pressed and struck down sometimes, but not destroyed. We carry around death in our bodies but the life of Jesus is revealed in us.

I said earlier that I was clinging to the belief that somehow there was redemption here, even in this. Now the tragedy of this story is flipped on its head and in Jesus everything is inside out and instead of brokenness and anger there is my sister safely loved, praying for her attacker, newly engaged, healing and joyful and vibrant. I don't want to be triumphalistic, because pain and struggle is real and it is not a sign of a lack of faith. It is not uncomplex, there is counseling and night terror and much to process, but just go and read her words. Not all stories end this way in this life, but this, for me, has been a taste of the glory that will be revealed when all things are made new. This was not a victory for evil. I'll quote her:

Through the oppressive darkness of that hour he allowed you to be all the more captivated and yes, even liberated by the light, and to learn that the mightiest powers of evil and the darkest hour of night cannot keep you any more than the grave could keep him all those years ago, which is not at all. 



4 comments:

Kari said...

I will be praying for your sister and for your family as you support her. I am so sorry this has happened.

Corinna Mazzotta said...

I am so sad to read of this Kacie and can't begin to imagine the grief all of your family are feeling. My heart ached for you all, reading your sister's letter to herself.
Praise God for a family of faith and that your sister has proved God's faithfulness in the darkness. I'm not sure that my faith would stand up under such a test in the way that Michelle's has!
xxx

Michelle McNeil said...

Oh, I cried. Somehow it is so helpful for me to read through someone else's processing what happened to me. It's...good for my heart in ways I couldn't have expected. I love you, sister.

CatharineKariana said...

Oh man. I can't even imagine. I've never been good with words. You all have so much grace and beauty and all I can say is I'm praying for you guys.