My wife runs marathons, and she finishes them in about four hours. Last October, I stood at the finish line four hours and nine minutes into the Chicago marathon. I know the joy of friends and family cheering on their loved ones.
On Monday afternoon, in Boston, that moment of joy and those people of joy were shattered by violence and lots of hatred and a couple of relatively small bombs.
On Monday afternoon, I guess I felt a little shattered, too.
Shattered, yet grateful my devastation was one of empathy, rather than flesh and bone.
I arrived home late on Monday night. My children were still awake but fading quickly in their beds. I kissed their foreheads and murmured prayers and after their eyes finally closed, I stood looking into the dark of their rooms and I felt grateful for breathing children and legs that work and the momentary safety of home.
As I watched them, I felt a depth of love for my children and my wife that doesn’t happen on a typical Monday night.
You may know the depth of love I’m talking about. I hope you do. It’s Love with a capital “L” and it cracks you open and it connects you to everyone and everything. In the depths of that Love there are no grievances too big for forgiveness, no brokenness too ugly for grace, there are no strangers and no enemies. It’s a love tenderized by pain and it’s a Love with the power to bring us all together.
I think we can honor the victims of this tragedy by giving ourselves over to this deep-love. And by clinging to it. But, over time, we won’t. I won’t.
I will dishonor the victims of Boston.
I will dishonor the victims by swimming up from the depths of that love and living once again in the shallows of my ego and self-interest and humanness.
I will dishonor them when my awareness fades.
I will dishonor them when my gratitude evaporates.
I will dishonor them in a hundred little ways: when I once again take my legs for granted, when the new scratch on the kitchen table is once again more important than the joy that put it there, when the stranger on the street no longer feels like the stranger that might die with me tomorrow, when all the petty endeavors of life become, once again, bigger than my love.
Indeed, I will dishonor them when my love swells and crests and finally recedes.
I will dishonor the victims of Boston because I’m human and because humans forget. But this time I’m resolving to remember a little bit longer than I usually do—a little bit longer than I remembered Sandy Hook.
I’m going to remember with prayer.
I’m not going to pray because it erases the past. And I’m not going to pray because I believe it guarantees healing or restoration for the physically and emotionally wounded. And I’m not going to pray for justice because I think it will ensure the guilty are captured.
I’m going to pray for the victims, because prayer keeps me aware. And as long as I’m aware, I’m loving. And as long as I’m loving, then terror loses.
You see, you can bring criminals to justice with law enforcement, but you can only bring terror to justice with love.
When terror looks upon Boston and sees a city drawn together, terror loses and love wins.
When terror beholds strangers coming to the aid of one another, terror loses and love wins.
When terror sows connection and a sense of belonging rather than fear and division, terror loses and love wins.
When terror plants the seeds of gratitude and gentleness in the heart of a father, terror loses and love wins.
I think the best way to honor the victims in Boston is to bring terror to justice, one loving moment at a time, one prayer at a time.
For as long as I can remember.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.