Gary’s Story: In His Own Words
On Saturday November 8th, 2008 my world blew apart – literally. I was carrying a package I thought was a gift when it exploded in my hands.
We had recently sold our cozy townhouse and were excited to move into a larger home with a yard for our daughters. The day started out with a quiet breakfast of tea and cinnamon buns. We were reflecting on the many fond memories from our time living in this wonderful, friendly neighborhood. Moving to a new neighborhood was going to be harder than we thought.
After breakfast, my wife Lynda and I kissed our two daughters, ages one and three, good-bye as they joyfully went to spend the day with their Oma. We didn’t want to worry about them getting in the way during a hectic day of moving. The moving truck came right on time and a handful of family and friends showed up to help us load up and get on our way. One of the last items that needed to be loaded onto the truck was the BBQ. I tossed the wet BBQ cover over the balcony railing and my father helped me carry the BBQ down the stairs. As I went to retrieve the BBQ cover from the back yard I discovered an unexpected package sitting directly in front of the back door.
An ordinary day flipped upside down
“How nice!” I thought. “One of our neighbors has left us a going away present. I really will miss this neighborhood. It’s too bad the kids aren’t home to enjoy whatever surprise gift they would find inside.” As I picked it up and as I walked through the back room and into the garage I remember wrestling in my mind about what I should do with the gift. Should I put it on the truck for the kids to open later? Should I run it up to Lynda for her to open? While I stood there wondering, the brightly colored package violently exploded in my hands.
The deafening blast felt like a vicious slap by a tsunami of fire. It had enough force to send me flying backwards, violently knocking the wind right out of me. I was stunned, injured and in excruciating pain. My first thoughts, next to the utter shock of realizing that it was a bomb, were towards God. Before I hit the ground I sensed a deep connection with him as I asked with great surprise: “What do you want to do with this?”
Lying on the garage floor, holding my face together with my hands and gasping for breath my thoughts quickly turned to how grateful I was that my two precious daughters were not here to experience this horrific trauma. I was also grateful that my wife was upstairs packing, and my father was in the back room picking up boxes. The blast sent razor sharp shrapnel tearing through my face, chest, arms and legs. I was bleeding from my face and having a difficult time catching my breath. All I could do to breathe was to breathe through a scream. The garage was full of thick smoke and I could hear my dad and my wife calling for me. As I lay on the floor desperately trying to stop the blood that was gushing from my face I could hear many people scrambling and screaming for someone to call 9-1-1.
The bomb left me with a severely lacerated face, abdomen, chest, and arm. I had a hole in my abdomen and burns from my abdomen to my knees. My sinus was shattered and my jaw was cracked. I was relieved to find so many people quickly coming to my aid. The police were just down the street when they received the many frantic 9-1-1 calls. The ambulance seemed to only take minutes to arrive on the scene. The next thing I knew, I was sitting outside on the sidewalk with a towel pressed up against my face. Soon I was whisked off in the ambulance for a number of surgeries and five days in the hospital.
Seeing the destruction
I had the opportunity to return to our townhouse after I was released from the hospital. I was shocked to learn the extent of the damage done to our home. The blast blew large holes through the walls, ceiling and even the cement floor. It even blew through the neighbor’s window across the street. When I saw the damage done to one of our hardwood dining room chairs that was waiting to be loaded in the truck, I knew that it was only by the grace of God that I was still alive.
The experience sent my family and entire community into absolute chaos. Everyone was asking the same question, “Who would plan to bomb and kill an innocent family like ours?” I have great confidence in the Langley RCMP and the officers who we have trusted to bring the people or person responsible to justice. But a year after the incident, the question of “who?” still remains unanswered. While there is no evidence to suggest that the bomb was targeted towards me or our family in anyway, we can see that whoever planned, built and carefully planted this evil device must have been tormented with incredible anger and hate.
Ever since our peaceful world had been so violently interrupted, I have become much more aware of the violence that continues to make headlines throughout our world and even my community. Whether it is international news of a child suicide bomber, the latest victim of gang violence, or headlines of police being deployed with automatic assault rifles, we all recognize that something is terribly wrong with our world. We know deep in our souls that this is not how the world should be.
We are so inundated with acts of violence in our news that we are almost numb to it. That is, we’re numb until it happens to someone we love. We can try to ignore violence as long as possible, but every act of violence affects the entire community. One act of violence doesn’t just damage one life, it damages many others and potentially generations. Now through the power of the internet and instant information one act of violence is felt around the world as we increasingly become one global community.
What our souls crave
I recently read a book called Soul Cravings and I have really appreciated what my friend, author Erwin McManus has to say about the common thread between love and community as opposed to hate and isolation.
In entry five of Soul Cravings Erwin writes: “The farther we move from community, the closer we move to violence.”
Why is this? Because the farther we move away from understanding and caring for the needs of others, the closer we are to selfish judgment, prejudice and hatred. This may not be true in every case of violence, but it seems to be true in the case of the quiet community of Jefferson County Colorado when two teenage boys planned for over a year to ruthlessly massacre as many students and teachers at Columbine High School as possible.
In Soul Cravings Erwin writes:
If I know nothing else about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I know that they had given up on love. They no longer considered themselves as part of the human community. They cared for no one and cared about no one, not even themselves. Where there is no love there is no value for life. When hate consumes our hearts, all we can think of, all we desire is to destroy.
When there is disengagement from human community, there is the potential for inhumanity.
The human heart was not created to be a container for hate.
When we allow bitterness, jealousy, envy, racism, lust, greed, and arrogance to fuel our souls, we create an environment within us to be agents of violence.
We live in a time when the most terrifying bomb is not a nuclear one, but a human one.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe that we are created for love and to love, not to hate. I believe that we are created to live and thrive in community, not in isolation or exclusivity. The danger of loving nothing or loving ideas that teach that one view of the world is superior over another, is that these ideas only fuel racism and fanaticism. There is a dramatic difference between fanaticism and love. Fanaticism justifies and defines who you hate. True love is unconditional – true love sacrifices oneself for another without expecting anything in return. Unconditional love embraces and forgives and leaves no room for violence.
So if we are created for love, what happens inside a human being when belief in an ideology becomes more important than a human life?
I recently read that the security costs for the upcoming Vancouver Olympic Games were originally estimated to be $175 million dollars, but now critics are claiming the new estimates for security will push past $1 billion. I am all for the games, and believe that we need to have security at the games. But it is the fear of violence that costs us all in the end. You don’t even need to know the ins and outs of world politics to realize that something is wrong with this picture. This is not what the world was created to be like.
How dark must a human soul become to justify taking the life of an innocent person just to make a point? In light of what happened to us last November, this question resonates with us the most. Even though we may never know the true answer to the question of motive, I think it is what our entire community seeks to know.
I think McMauns communicates the issue clearly when he writes in Soul Cravings:
We stand in the midst of a human dilemma.
We long for community; we long to belong; we long for love.
Yet what we long for most we seem incapable of sustaining.
Humanity has no natural predators except each other.
We are safer in the jungle than in the city.
We are our own worst enemies.
I have heard many people say that religion is one of the main causes of violence and war, both historically and presently. As a person of deep faith and a follower of Jesus, I think that the world has a skewed perception of the difference between organized religion and having a dynamic, life transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. It is through my relationship with Jesus that God has absolutely transformed my life.
As a Christian, my holy scriptures describe God as a loving creator and father. As a father who is deeply involved in and concerned about his creation he knows the depth of our potential to hate, and our inclination to violence, so he provided a way to deal with this problem through Jesus. Jesus took on the full judgment/penalty of God’s anger against humanity’s violence. God is a father who is passionately pursuing us much more than we are trying to pursue him. The Bible is filled with stories of God reaching out to us with mercy, grace and love despite the many ways we make a mess of our lives and our society. The main message of the Bible can be simplified to one simple yet profound passage:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son. Who ever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” What great news!
It’s simply about trust and accepting God’s gift of love. I’ve come to discover that it’s not about do’s and don’ts or rules to follow, which is what the religions of our world has taught us to believe. In the book of Jeremiah, God says that he loves us with an everlasting love. God’s heart is that no one would perish but have everlasting life and relationship with him.
Again, I really like what Erwin McManus says about love in his book Soul Cravings:
We speak of true love not only lasting a lifetime, but lasting forever.
We can’t manage [what’d it be like] to meet the standards of love [forever], and so we just accept that love isn’t all it’s made out to be. Prepare to be disappointed. Isn’t that the history of love? We can never live up to its standards. I think we recognize this when it comes to God. If God loves conditionally, we’re all in trouble. And this, when you whittle it down to its bottom line, is the basis of all religion.
God loves but on condition. Meet the conditions and gain the love. Love is something that is attained. Oh, we use different words for it—forgiveness, mercy, acceptance, grace—all really different words for love.
In this it appears that all religions are the same. They give God a name and then establish the rules that we must follow if we are to gain his favor and affection. I think this is why a lot of us see all religions as different ways of getting to the same thing.
Some girls want flowers; others, chocolates; others, meaningful conversation (and you thought the flowers and chocolates were expensive); all different ways of trying to get to the same place— to be loved, to find love.
Religion exists not because God loves too little, but because we need love so much. In the end all religions misrepresent God. They either dictate requirements for love or simply become a requiem for love. I think many of us have rightly given up on God on this basis alone. We’ve been told that God is a reluctant lover and that his standards must be met before there can be any talk of love. This is lunacy. Love exists because God is love. Our souls will never find satisfaction until our hearts have found this love that we so desperately yearn for.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is in the book of John chapter 8 when the religious leaders try to trap Jesus by bringing him a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. In that day the crime of adultery was punishable by a violent death of stoning:
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11, NIV)
Through this passage we see God’s heart of unconditional love and forgiveness. The world seems to view Christianity as a set of rules, but this passage clearly reveals God’s true heart and love for people. God’s main message is about relationship and forgiveness. It is only through experiencing God’s unconditional love and forgiveness in my own life that gives me the ability to pass on love and forgiveness to others – whether it be someone who cuts me off in traffic, or the person who placed a bomb at my doorstep and nearly took my life.
If we really believe that the only way we are going to see an end to violence in our world today, and experience community in the way God has created it is to live a life of unconditional love as Jesus did. The only way I know to live like Jesus is to follow him. God is good and approachable, he is not hard to find as he says in his Holy word, “If you seek me you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:
Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.
Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised. Is this the life for you?
If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest. Please let us know about your decision by clicking below, and let us know how we can help you continue your journey!