a wimp. When one of my kids scraped a knee, I could do my motherly
duty, but if it needed stitches, I called in stronger stomachs. I know
that words are merely puffs of air, yet when I hear a cuss word, it’s a
needle in my heart. And movies . . . I have a vivid imagination. I
don’t need to see the details to get the gist of what’s going on.
Which is my point. We are
sometimes confronted with offensive sights and sounds. We all know how
to avoid such intrusions: don’t watch the TV show,
don’t read the book, don’t listen to the comedian, lock yourself in a
closet. But it’s not always that easy. Sometimes we find ourselves in
situations where we have to deal with the distasteful. What do we do
then to “guard our hearts”?
As a writer I go to seminars and
classes to find information that might enhance my work. At one such
talk, a county medical examiner had been invited to explain the amazing
advances in scientific pathology. Perhaps I was naïve. Perhaps I
expected a Quincy-type character to speak to us, to explain in a
fatherly soft voice how forensics let the dead speak.
I was so wrong.
The ME brought slides, so we
arranged our chairs so we could see the screen. The first slides were
educational. Lists. Words. Details. But the next ones . . .
I was shocked to see a vivid
slide of a man who’d died in a hit-and-run. I quickly looked in my lap.
I can’t see this.
I pretended to take copious notes.
Surely, the speaker would flip
through such slides, realizing what was normal for him was horrifying
to the rest of us.
But he didn’t. In fact, he
seemed to take special pleasure in showing examples of his “patients.”
He joked. He teased. He acted as if these people were as
inconsequential as a box of paper clips or a coffee mug.
These people were
somebody’s son, somebody’s wife.
I looked toward the exit. With
misguided enthusiasm, I’d positioned myself front and center. In the
cramped room I’d have to weave my way through the entire audience to
leave. I couldn’t listen. I couldn’t look. And I couldn’t escape.
My hand started writing. “Guard
your heart . . . guard your heart. ‘Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life’” (Prov. 4:23 NIV).
“. . . now this man was stabbed
fifty-two times . . .”
Good thoughts. I needed good
thoughts. My husband. Our kids. My brother’s wedding the
“. . . you can see there were
two different knives used . . .”
How beautiful when my
brother and his new wife were married in the garden, the sun
miraculously appearing after days and days of rain.
“. . . one brother accused the
other brother of doing the killing, but we found . . .”
glow of happiness
on my brother’s face. The fun of singing around the piano at the
I glanced at the people closest
to me to see if they were fighting the same battle against this brutal
reality. Other eyes met mine then looked to their laps. I was not
“This one looks like he’s
asleep, doesn’t he?”
in the living room at my parents’ home, the house full to overflowing
with wedding guests. The sounds of Mom clattering in the kitchen,
making a breakfast casserole at 5 AM. The joy of holding my new
sister-in-law’s twin nieces, so innocent as they slept through the
laughter and hum of wedding voices . . .
Finally another voice. “I’m
afraid that’s all the time we have tonight. Perhaps our speaker will
consent to come back and finish his presentation.”
A few people murmured their
enthusiasm. Most remained silent.
When I reached my car, I felt
drained. The tears started. I let them flow, knowing they were more
important than any complacency and professional detachment I might
feign. I cried for the evil in the world. I cried for the need for
autopsies and medical examiners.
And I cried for the “patients.”
As the tears subsided, I thanked
God for the happy events that were a blessing in my life, and I prayed
that those memories would quickly override the negative images I’d
know I will face this challenge
again. For we live in a fallen world. But God and goodness will
prevail: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made
his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of
God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6 NIV).
God’s glory and Christ: Darkness
doesn’t have a chance.