What violence can never touch: a year after the Boston Marathon bombings

A Christian Science perspective: Some insights from a spectator near the finish line during last year's Boston Marathon.

I was standing with my kids a block from the Boston Marathon bombings a year ago. We felt the tremors in the ground, but not until we got a call from my cousin’s husband telling us a bomb had gone off did we understand what had happened. My cousin was running the race, and we were supposed to meet her at the finish line. We had been on our way to a frozen yogurt shop, so we entered the shop to sit and anxiously await news of my cousin.

Siren after siren raced through Boston, as scores of people began searching for anywhere to find rest and peace, having abandoned the marathon. Marathoners entered the shop, and my kids and I struck up a conversation with a runner from Indiana who had been just short of the finish line when the first bomb went off. He asked to use our cellphone to call his father to let him know he was OK.

He described to us what he’d seen, and as the horror of the situation became clear, I felt a great love toward him. I could tell he was looking to try to make sense of a situation that didn’t have a logical explanation. It reminded me of deep discussions with friends in graduate school about God’s role in events of good and evil around the world. But I felt at that moment that this man didn’t need some big theological idea. What all of us needed was a very real, comforting presence of God as divine Love embracing everyone amid the alarm and chaos.

We began talking about Indiana and about what brought him to the marathon in Boston. It was the first time he’d traveled to our city, and it seemed that the destruction and terror would be the main memory he would be taking home with him. I wished instead for him to know the great joy and deep pride that many in Boston and the neighboring communities feel on Patriot’s Day. All along the marathon route every year, there’s a spirit of goodwill and community as people come out to cheer on those they know as well as those they don’t. I hoped for a different memory for this man than the scene he’d just witnessed, so I asked if he believed in God. He said he did, and we agreed that maybe there was a higher reason we were brought together in the frozen yogurt shop, so that we could be a comfort to each other.

An idea from the Bible resonated with me as I prayed. It states, “Ye are of God, little children ... greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). I’ve never been able to resolve difficult questions of good and evil by trying to analyze or explain the reason for the awful conflicts seen in the world. But as I grapple with these questions in my own life and heart, I find that goodness has power to make a difference in my experience.

Mary Baker Eddy in her book “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” asked Christian Scientists to follow Jesus’ words to “ ‘Go ye into all the world,’ ‘heal the sick,’ cast out evil, disease, and death ...” (p. 172), as well as St. Paul’s admonition in Romans to “overcome evil with good” (p. 128). In her seminal writing, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she went so far as to say: “At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil” (p. 571).

Under any and all circumstances we are to overcome evil with good by knowing ourselves and letting God direct our thoughts. This was clear that day in the yogurt shop – the despair, fear, and chaos all around could not overshadow God’s voice cutting through the disaster and bringing comfort and healing.

The marathoner and I continued to chat about my brief time living in Indiana, and my kids chatted happily with him as they ate their frozen yogurt. When he was more composed and settled, he said he was going to head toward the finish line to try to recover his things or see what he needed to do next. With tears in his eyes, he said to me, “You have beautiful children. The memory of talking with you all is what I will remember most from this day.”

When we’re faced with horror, grief, loss, and struggle, it’s no small thing to keep our hearts and minds from getting overcome with evil. But staying focused on where the real power lies keeps hope and goodness alive, bringing with it regeneration and healing. Divine goodness is so much greater than what any bomb can touch.

As I reflect on the events of the Boston Marathon in 2013, my prayer today is to continue to be so overcome with the goodness evident in everyday life that no terror can destroy it. And I pray to see that this is true not only for the families in Boston remembering loved ones, but for families everywhere, from Ukraine to Syria, Jerusalem to the Congo. The peace and goodness that is evidence of divine Love is able to redeem hearts and minds from the horror of violence, destruction, and war – everywhere in the world.

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