This has been a painful couple of weeks for Escondido, California, in North County San Diego. We live in Escondido, and North County Church of Christ (where we serve in ministry) is also Escondido. Last week, the body of 17-year-old Chelsea King (on the right) was discovered near Lake Hodges. Yesterday, the remains of 14-year-old Amber DuBois (missing for over a year) were discovered in a remote part of Pala Indian Reservation, just north of Escondido.
Our daughters Anna and Olivia (7 and 5 yrs. old respectively) have been praying for Amber since she was abducted less than a quarter-mile from our home. I drive by Escondido High School (where most of the NCCC youth ministry attends) each morning and evening, reading the words "Help Us Find Amber," from a banner waving in the breeze. As I drove by this morning, flowers and memorials of various kinds were being placed under that sign, and the news crews were there.
I don't what we'll tell the girls tonight, but we'll need to tell them something. Amber's story is all over the TV, the front page of the paper, and massive memorial on Broadway in Escondido is unavoidable. I know they'll be really sad, and we'll need to tell them the truth in age-appropriate ways. I have two daughters and will be blessed with a third daughter within days. As I look at them tonight, I'll feel a twinge of pain for the Dubois and King families, who will not have that profound privilege again on this earth.
Then, there are those of us who are older. What shall we make of all this? In times like these, I'm hesitant to say much of anything at all. Sometimes, however, life calls you out. And, sometimes, the beginning of the healing process is hearing the gentle echoes of God's Word amid tragedy. Here are a few of those echoes:
Love your kids every chance you get. Everyone should love their kids every moment they have the opportunity. Times like these remind us in the most vivid ways. Children are one of God's grandest gifts and should be treated as such.
Learn to mourn with those who mourn. It's easy for people to try to explain things like this, talk about how it's really not that bad if they are going to heaven, or even seek to redeem the offender even as the family continues to work through unspeakable grief. We must continue to learn the ministry of mourning. Families can recover from such a horror, but they'll bear the marks of it forever. Whether those marks become permanent handicaps or the embossing of experience bringing wisdom, compassion, and tenderheartedness will be a spiritual journey I can't fathom. That journey begins with mourning. It is the task of their loved ones and those professing Jesus to remember the words of Christ, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."
Trust in God who will make all things right. God may not set things right in the manner we would choose, but He will do it. No one grieves the death of these young women as much as God. We can be assured that He has seen and will act according to His true justice. Because of this, we need not seek our own vengeance. As Romans 12:19 says, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." In Celebrating the Wrath of God, Jim McGuiggan writes, "As long as we continue to croon romantic ballads about God as a heavenly sweetheart…we're going to have difficulties facing a planet that groans under a curse." He continues, "And in our better moments we don't want him to be a heavenly sweetheart. We want him to wage war, however he sees fit, against all the wickedness within us and around us, and if that means we share the pain of this world that is condemned and in need of rescue, we'll take it on."
Life is fragile. We too often take for granted that we will live out our days and that our loved ones will do the same. I'm reminded of the humbling truth that our lives are but a vapor, and this world isn't all there is. For those in Christ, death doesn't get the last word.
To the King and DuBois families, may the God of Peace surround you. You are blanketed with the prayers of His people.
"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:18–21).