Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Making sense out of tragedy

The news this week has been filled with the story of the murder of two sweet boys, Charlie and Braden Powell. If you haven't followed the story, their mother, Susan Cox Powell, disappeared a bit over two years ago and her husband was a "person of interest," but her case is yet unsolved. The children were in the custody of their father, who had moved home to Washington after his wife's disappearance. They lived in my neighborhood, until in a very troubling twist of events, their grandfather was arrested for child pornography and voyerism.

Eventually custody of the children was given to Susan's parents. Sunday, they had a scheduled visitation with their father. The CPS worker took them, and when they ran into the house, their father blocked the CPS worker from coming in. She went to her car to call her supervisor to report what had happened, and he blew up his house, killing himself and his two boys. I read more about what they found this morning, about what their father did to them, and it is so heartbreaking, I honestly can't bear to type it.

I've seen those boys walking to the school my son attended last year. Today, I drove by the school where there are balloons, stuffed animals, flowers and posters all over the sign in tribute to those two innocent lives. My kids don't know about this tragedy, and it was all I could do to stop the tears as we drove by the school. Purple ribbons adorn the trees of our neighborhood and there's a sense of shock and horror that you can see on my neighbor's faces.

I don't know any of the people involved personally. But the fact that it happened nearby (I saw the firetrucks and ambulance as we left church on Sunday) makes it somehow more horrible, more real. Passing the school, knowing why those flowers and balloons are there, it just hurts. It hurts something awful and I didn't even know them. I cannot fathom what their grandparents are going through right now, losing their daughter to an unknown fate and now this.

That man, that monster who, from what I can tell, seemed to think that if he couldn't have his kids then no one could - he had no idea what his actions would do. He had no idea how far the pain would spread. He didn't just hurt his wife (who I personally believe is probably dead), or his family or his wife's family. He devastated the CPS worker who witnessed the explosion. He hurt the firefighters and EMTs who responded to the disaster. He hurt his neighbors who had to witness the horror of what he did. He hurt the friends of his sweet children, the little boys and girls whose parents have to explain why their friend won't be coming back to school.

He hurt complete strangers. People all over this area are crying for these boys. For the tragedy of losing their mother, for the pain they have suffered, and for their horrifying death at the hands of their own father.

Sin isn't isolated. This is a big, obvious example of how the effects of sin range far and wide. Something this dramatic and evil has a ripple effect across an entire community, probably the entire nation. People everywhere are reeling from the shock of such a terrible, terrible crime.

It reminds me that, even smaller sins have the same effect. They don't just hurt my relationship with God on a personal level and that is that. Sin has the power to hurt people you don't even know, in ways you can't even fathom. This man's utter selfishness is an obvious, glaring example and it is easy to shy away from it and refuse to recognize how it could be applicable to our own lives. But while his sin exploded out and rocked a community, our own sins trickle forth and taint the world just the same.

My consolation in watching this tragedy unfold is in God. Only He offers hope in such a completely horrible, evil deed. I don't know what that hope is, really. That those innocent children are in the arms of God, and possibly with their mother? Maybe. But I do know that God makes things right and that their lives were not in vain. As far reaching as the sin of their father has been, God's reach is infinitely greater and He can work in the world in ways we can't possibly imagine. And I take comfort that those innocent children are with Him now. For this world that we see is not the end. Tragic as it is to lose two precious lives in such a terrible way, they offer us the hope of Jesus in their death.

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