Like many of you, I watched closely last year, as a deadly bombing at the finish of the Boston Marathon and an ensuing manhunt seemed to turn the entire city of Boston inside out. I was in Boston at the time, and had many hours in unanticipated hotel lock-down to think and pray about the impact that the bomb and bombers would have. The pain and fear in the city were palpable and weighty.
Today, one year later, there are over thirty-five thousand runners participating in the Boston Marathon. Together they comprise the second largest field in the race’s 118-year history. In case you’re wondering, it’s about 9,000 more runners than last year.
For too many people, the Boston Marathon bombing was a devastating and life-altering experience. But something happened in the days and weeks and months that followed. From that devastation a story began to emerge and to take hold: it was a story not of tragedy and weakness, but of strength. A story of resiliency and of slow triumph. It is very-much a continuing story, as people from all over the world persist towards recovery and healing and growth.
It brings to mind Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
And maybe it’s just the way that the whole “Boston Strong” angle is playing out in the media, but it seems to me that many of those impacted are making strength and healing, and even joy a conscious choice. Rather than dwell on the evil that touched their lives,they are “running with endurance” the path that has been laid out before them. Survivors have banded together to build diverse support communities. Teams of doctors and nurses who treated victims last year are running the race themselves today.
To me, it presents an incredible reminder of the redemptive power of God’s love.
From brokenness, God builds strength.
We just celebrated Easter, and if you think about it, that’s pretty much what this holiday is all about. What greater image of strength in brokenness is there than that of Christ on the cross? But it doesn’t stop there.
This truth is reflected over and over throughout God’s creation, even down to the way our own bodies work. Have you ever wondered why you get sore after a particularly tough work out? It’s because when you exercise, you are actually damaging your muscles. Tiny, cellular-level damage, but damage nonetheless. And as your body works to heal that damage, it builds muscles that are stronger and more resilient than before.
It works that way with relationships too. When we want someone to think well of us, we spend a lot of time and effort trying to present our best selves. But it’s the people who’ve seen you and loved you through your weakest, ugliest times that you feel closest to. Out of weakness and vulnerability, strong relationships grow.
I’ve seen the same pattern reflected in my own life. Over the brokenness of a failed marriage and a rebellious teenage son, through the fear of losing my daughter to illness and the grief of losing both my parents, God has built bridges of trust, and grace, and love.
Not one of us is in perfect form; we are all running broken, in some way. As the runners hit the pavement today in Boston, I encourage you to consider the areas of brokenness in your life, not with shame or regret, but with hope. Know, as the runners do, that great brokenness leaves room for powerful redemption.
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How have you seen God work in brokenness?