Editor’s note: Those of us in Christians United by Jahar have been very encouraged as we have seen how God has worked in at times eerily similar ways in first putting Jahar on our hearts. We have also been encouraged as we continue to have random people contact us thinking that they were all alone in praying for Jahar’s salvation. Here is yet another story of one girl’s journey of praying for Jahar.
On April 15th, I, like the rest of the country, woke up to heartbreak.
When I first saw the headlines about the Boston Marathon, I was in disbelief. How a human being had the capacity to inflict that kind of pain and terror became unfathomable to me.
I spent the next few days in anger. People who know me personally know that I do not enjoy being angry or resentful. I remember the night of the shootout in Watertown- I was on twitter and saw trending topics about some of the things that were happening, and then the news outlets got a hold of it. I spent that entire night watching live coverage. The first thing I’d heard was that MIT Officer Sean Collier had been murdered. Ironically, I was waiting for my dad to come home from his job as a police officer. The first thing I thought of was this man’s family. I hugged my dad hard when he walked in the door 20 minutes after midnight, his normal arrival time which I do not take for granted.
As the night wore on I followed the chaotic events in Massachusetts, nearly 1,000 miles away from my home. I was awake all night. I remember the moment I first saw the photos released by the FBI of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and the horrible anger that welled up inside of me. It had been an emotional week for all of America, and to tie it to these names and faces gave me something to concentrate my anger on. I had no idea that in coming days, this anger would turn into burden and that God would use these horrible events to work in my heart in ways I weren’t aware were possible.
I struggled to stay awake into the late morning hours on April 19th. I just wanted to know that Dzhokhar had been captured. I fell asleep with my TV still on, and didn’t wake up until evening, to find that he was surrounded in a boat outside somebody’s residence. I watched with my parents as they finally apprehended him and rushed him away in an ambulance to Beth Israel Deaconess- the very hospital that was caring for many of his victims.
Over the next few days, I felt odd, not like myself. I was glued to the news most days. I felt something stirring in my heart. Laying in the dark in my room in the middle of the night days after Dzhokhar’s arrest, I reached the realization that what I was feeling was no longer anger. It was burden. My heart felt incredibly heavy. In fact, it was completely shattered. The thoughts running through my head were of a man not terribly older than I, who had forfeited everything he had for a lie, and of another man who’s last memories were of hatred and bullets and blood and being run over, likely by his own accord. Did he think he was being a martyr for the cause?
That night, for the first time I can truly remember, I felt a real burden for humanity. My heart trembled thinking about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a person, and as a symbol of a world that quivers in pain and senselessness and deception, that doesn’t realize it’s own desperate need for a Savior.
Additionally, it sparked within me questions I’d never challenged myself to ask. Throughout the Bible, Jesus tells us to love our enemies; to forgive. As a self professing Christian, a general standard I’ve been taught to hold myself up to is to walk like Christ- to love like Jesus does. But how many times do we actually fulfill that tremendous responsibility? Jesus loves those who make themselves a public object of anger and hatred. Would Dzhokhar be an exception? Absolutely not. And I can say with confidence that there is no shame in being burdened for any soul.
How do we forgive people who do unthinkable things? How do we love people the way Jesus commands us to when the world we’re living in tries to tell us there is nothing to love?
Though I’ve never set off an explosive on anything that breathes or committed a physical act of terrorism, it was my sin that drove the nails through Jesus’ hands and feet every bit as much as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s did. I’ve set off bombs of hatred in my heart and I’ve maimed people with my thoughts, intents, words, and actions. Though those aren’t federal crimes, in the face of our Creator I am just as accountable for those transgressions as Dzhokhar is for his.
3 months before the Boston Marathon, I read a book that without a doubt impacted me more than any other book aside from the Bible; “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom. She survived the holocaust, but not without suffering tremendous emotional and physical torment and losing her sister and father in the process. What gripped me the most was how she brought herself to forgive her abusers after it was all over. Her words sum up forgiveness perfectly:
“I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
I believe that if applied to every situation, this principle would change the world. This is a love that is greater than life itself. I now lament over every night I’ve gone to sleep unbothered by the destruction of souls happening in our own homeland as well as internationally. I now wonder how many people just like Dzhokhar I have looked at without truly seeing, or how many times I’ve simply been too self-centered or reserved to care for somebody’s soul or the pain in their heart. It hurts me to consider how many people could be carrying this lack of compassion and concern to their graves and beyond. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel the weight of this newly felt conviction. I am now constantly aware of the people around me. My heart is still shattered to this day. It’s safe to say that I will never be the same.
I can’t express the joy I was overcome with by discovering that there are people who are committed to carrying Dzhokhar’s cross and believe that his soul has worth. Every day my prayer is that he would come to salvation as well as his family, that redemption and revival would rise up out of the ashes of this senseless situation; and that those whose lives came under attack by such terrorism will find peace, closure, and healing. Lord, comfort them and draw them near.
If I could tell Dzhokhar Tsarnaev one thing, it would be that when there is no just way for redemption on earth, there is always redemption with Jesus Christ.
We are at war, but not even the gates of hell can stand against compassion.