Nov 9, 2018

In A Moment

Damascus High School, my alma mater, has been in the news lately. First, I'm proud to say Damascus Varsity Football now has the longest winning streak in Maryland, 51 games and counting, and is on their way to a 4th consecutive state championship. Go Hornets!

But this awesome feat was overshadowed in a moment by a horrendous act of violence by some JV football team members, who allegedly assaulted and raped their own teammates in the locker room after school last week. For details, see this article. Shocking read, but worth the time.

Ever since I read about this days ago, it's haunted me. I can't imagine the pain and horror experienced by the victims. And I can't imagine the remorse of those who committed the crime. How could this have happened in small town America, where people look out for each other? And where being part of a team meant you had each other's backs - you were safe as long as a teammate was around?

I've cried, prayed, and searched for answers. Who is to blame?

The school and coaches - why were the boys in the locker room without adult supervision?

The parents - what goes on in these boys' homes? What do their parents let them watch on TV, listen to? Are they supervised at all?

A relative, friend, other adult - did they suffer abuse at the hands of someone they trusted?

I don't know the details, or have any information to cast blame on anyone except those who chose to do what they did. I think we need to look inside for the real reason this happened. What was inside those boys came out in a moment of opportunity, careless choices, and weakness.

So why did they choose to do what they did?

I think part of the answer lies in how much has changed in "acceptable" media and culture that shapes our beliefs. Violent video games, anger and strife all over the news, TV shows on at any time of day or night that depict violence not only as acceptable, but as needed to be "in", or to belong. Cruelty and meanness in characters is admired, respected, and looked up to. We tell ourselves it's just a show, just a movie...and yet we find ourselves mulling over the images and dialogue.

Then what we think on and what we believe to be right becomes our reality and our source of what is acceptable and good. The images and words seep into our souls. The more we think that what is wrong is OK, the more we become saturated with deceptive lies that evil is good and good is weak. Bullies become idols. Mean and hurtful actions become cool. We start to imitate what we've seen without even realizing we're off track.

Bottom line: what was inside those boys, however it got there, came crashing out in a moment that forever changed 9 boys lives.

Truth is, but for the grace of God, I could be in their shoes. I've wanted to be cool. I've wanted to fit in and belong. I've even been a bully at times - talking and looking down on those who I deemed inferior.

But by the grace of God I didn't have the opportunity to go to that next level.

So how do we separate the truth from the lies? How do we know good from evil? Go to the only source I know that contains absolute truth: the Bible. I believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and all who come to Him can find healing and rest from their souls. And forgiveness. And strength to move forward. And freedom from fear. And hope. In a moment, He went to the cross for all of us, and redeemed our lives from the pit of hell. I'm so thankful for the cross! Through His Word, the Bible, we can find comfort, truth, and encouragement.

These boys, all of them, have a long road toward healing. Consequences must be faced and paid, and the boys held accountable for their actions. All the students at DHS will need some type of healing and counselling, and will likely do some soul searching about how this happened...and could it happen to them?

Everyone will look for answers. How, why, if only? There are no easy answers, there is no easy path. It will take time and, if they are willing, the grace of God to get them through and bring hope and healing.

As I think about this and pray for all involved, I realize there is evil in this world...but also so much good! I ask myself questions, starting with where is my focus? I can focus on the negative and sow seeds of strife all around, or I can focus on the hope available with Jesus, and on His power, love, and goodness.

I also realize that in any given moment, which way I focus is the result of what I take in and dwell on, and on what I believe to be true. So, what am I going to fill myself with today? Am I going to listen to music that is uplifting and positive? Am I going to watch TV or movies where good defeats evil, and people are good to each other? Am I going to think on whatever is lovely, honorable, hopeful, and positive?

Or am I going to take in and dwell on negative and hurtful things that will lead to actions I'll regret later?

Do I want to be part of the solution for healing and restoring people hurt by the evil in this world, or a contributor to the evil that causes the pain?

I have a choice And so do you. 

God wants to redeem this situation for good, and He can if He's invited in. No matter how bad things are, there is always hope with Jesus. I don't know any other way.

Do not be overcome and conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

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