Four Years Old

These posts about our attack are in some ways way more personal than any others. For me it’s not that they are more private, or intimate… (although – of course they are) but personal in that I write them for myself more than probably anything else I write.

The attack that happened in our house in Burundi was four years ago today.

Even when I read back over what I was thinking, feeling, and sharing I can see how much I’ve changed.

From the first update we gave just a few weeks after the attack, to me reflecting back two years after, to reflecting on the betrayal we experienced, and then again about a year later.

The scars (both physical and psychological/emotional) are now four years old. They aren’t fresh – but they are still there. I sometimes drag my left foot just ever-so-slightly when running when I get tired, due to the way the muscle healed. This means when trail running, which I do every couple of days, I am likely to stumble on a root or rock about once a week. And trip every month or so. I still can’t sing – but have a pretty good sense of what I can do with my voice. The emotional scars of course also run pretty deep, and will never be gone.

When I do trip on a loose rock and fall my first reaction is I want to scream “This isn’t fair- this is not what I signed up for!”

(Then I remember I can’t scream…)

But also – that is true …and it’s not.

First, I’m not sure what ‘fair’ really means. Is it fair that Burundian friends of ours had their family members killed in front of them during a Genocide while I lived a safe, happy, seemingly carefree childhood? Is it fair that someone who is the same age, gender, socio-economic status, and education level will be harassed by law enforcement because they have darker skin than I do? If I want to argue ‘fair’ – then I have to accept that I’ve come out on the positive side of ‘unfairness’ way, way more times than I have the negative side.

The second statement is a bit harder. Did I sign up for this? In other words – should I have expected this?

If we claim to follow Jesus, then we are called to step into the messiness of this world. We are called to go to those who are hurting. We should be stepping into the places where people need light, love, and grace. Those tend to be the places (physical, emotional, whatever) where hard things are. Where tough things happen. And we are naive if we think we won’t sometimes get hurt ourselves.

A few months ago, Eric our teammate from Kibuye, wrote a fantastic article in Christianity Today about an experience in Burundi where he was acting out in very real ways the parable of the Good Samaritan. The reality that the burden of helping was on him and others were not only not going to thank him, but maybe not even care was made painfully clear to him.

This is not what I signed up for. My job was to get these people to the hospital, where my generosity would be appreciated and someone else would take it from there. But in for an inch, in for a mile—not because I have any choice; I’m stuck.

Could this have happened to the Good Samaritan? I always pictured the innkeeper with a smile, but who wants a half-dead John Doe in their establishment, even if his expenses are covered? Was that inn the first one the Good Samaritan tried, or did he have to shop around and beg for a while? What if he tried other inns and found they didn’t want a bloody, unconscious man who might scare off their better clientele (like priests and Levites)? What if no one but the Samaritan cared if the injured man lived or died?

As the complexities of living out the parable unfold, I realize more and more that following the Good Samaritan may mean getting in deeper and being more alone than I imagined.

This is what happens when you choose to step into the messiness of life. You get deeper into the hard things.

So I guess what I’m saying is…in some ways… this is what I signed up for. Of course not what happened to our family – but if we say we’re willing to step into the hurt of the world, we can’t imagine we won’t get some collateral damage.

In some ways, I have learned to take things a bit more slowly. Not making so many assumptions about tomorrow being easy, fun, and enjoyable. Not making so many assumptions about tomorrow being there at all.

I guess at the end of the day what I always come back to is thankfulness that we’re still here. That we have been given the chance to fight another day. The scars are there – but in reality the only alternative to living with scars is not ‘living without scars’ but ‘not living. with scars.’

So I’ll take living with scars.