I stood as a Bostonian this week when bombs exploded at the end of the marathon. As our old neighborhoods were in lockdown, I felt a lot of sadness (though, I suppose, some sense of drama too). It was strange to feel so much for something unfolding so far away.
As the swat teams and FBI and police scoured the city yesterday, the collective desire for justice was palpable. From far away, the sense I got from the announcements were "if we try hard enough we will get justice" combined with some "there's a killer on the loose". These seem like totally justifiable responses.
But I couldn't help but feel that there is no real, satisfying justice in this story. There's a 19-year-old hiding in a boat, a dead police officer, three dead Boston marathon spectators, and many injured. These realities are raw and unescapable- justice is not really something that anyone can wrangle by force of human action and desire.
I am not sure the processes that led these brothers to do such terrible things, but I am sure that they are beyond what I can come to grips with. I do not have a sense that it is my job to understand or have a view on what justice looks like, these are for God.
I don't say this to distance myself from real, significant problems (Things like gun control seem like a no-brainer from where I'm standing). I say this because there is a lot to do and a lot to pray for, and perhaps it is enough to try to dwell on tiny things that are also beyond my understanding, in the hopes that they help me do right by the big things.
It seems an absurd transition to suddenly talk of soil, but one that seems as central a starting point as any: Every day I am learning more about the mystery of healthy soil- the mystery whereby death is resurrected into life in an endless cycle of birth, life, death, decay and new life, and on and on. It cannot be rushed, it is beyond human power. When we try quick fixes to cover up the damage we've done, we fall short because the soil is too complex to just give a quick chemically manufactured nutrient nod to. I think the soil hints at the limits of our power and knowledge in general, but also at the grave role of stewardship to restore this cycle even as expanding cities are paved over, water is squandered, and we pull everything we can out of the earth without putting anything back. Stewardship of the soil is actually pretty radical because it involves much, much more than just buying good food.
When I admire those fighting for freedom and power for the oppressed- noble and perhaps universal callings- I know I must spend many years (a lifetime?) unlearning all the ways that I am, in fact, the oppressor. So I'm learning as much as I can about the soil, feeling in my bones that God is bigger than the earth (bigger than our worst screw-ups), so stewardship of the soil is a gift that tells us about the mystery of who God is and what a good life looks like. It's not just a grave and scary responsibility.