It’s a strange thing for your mind to piece together an event when the remnants do not make sense.

A man lying in the middle of the crosswalk, his arms and legs are moving, a police officer kneels by him, holding the man’s head.
Car debris is strewn across a road … no, wait, those are shoes and a baseball hat.
The man in the middle of the crosswalk has only socks on his feet. No shoes.
Where is the car that hit him?

We are standing on the other side of the road. Near enough to sense the man’s distress. Far enough to feel a world away from whatever has just happened.
It looks like this man was crossing this road, perpendicular to Yonge, when a car hit him.
But we don’t see the car. We do see one police car at the scene. As awful a situation as this is, it looks like everything is under control, like an ambulance has been called.
There is no use in standing there gaping. We pray for the man, for the ambulance, for God’s help and grace in this situation.
And then we keep walking south.

Toronto is a special city in that its streets are laid out like a giant grid, running almost perfectly north and south, east and west. Yonge Street divides the city into east and west (e.g. King Street West means King Street, west of Yonge). People tell me that Yonge Street is the longest street in the world. I know some people who spent four hours one summer walking all the way down Yonge from Finch Station, the northernmost subway station, to Union Station.

We are walking on the east side of the street.
There appear to be some agitated pedestrians on the west side. I assume it has to do with the man who has been hit. That makes sense. Maybe they witnessed what has happened.
Wait. Is that another person down by that shop?
But he or she is so far on the inside of the sidewalk, practically against the wall.
We walk a little further.
There is another person down.
A little further.
And another person is down.
And that bus shelter has been shattered, glass scattered on the sidewalk.
And that fire hydrant is knocked over.
And that mailbox is not where it should be.
I can’t understand.
Why are people wounded on the sidewalk while the cars parked on that side of the road seem untouched?

Minutes later, all these emergency lights are flashing up and down the west side of the street, as far north and south as we can see.
What in the world is happening?
No one seems to know.
Something about a white van. Maybe it lost control of its breaks?

A man walking north on our sidewalk tells us he saw someone go flying. He’s speaking quickly, ranting almost. He says someone is dead. Distracted, he walks away from us.
A girl walking south on our sidewalk asks us what happened.
We don’t really know. Something about a van. Something bad.
She tells us that there are bodies north of us at Yonge and Finch, but no one is taking them to a hospital. Maybe they are dead?

It’s a strange thing for your mind to piece together an event when the remnants do not make sense.

On Monday afternoon, I was able to walk back to the church we were meeting at, drink the bubble tea and eat the sushi that had brought us out to Yonge St. in the first place, and go back to work and life. Today, I am acutely aware that was not the case for the 10 who were killed and the 14 who are suffering from injuries. There’s a part of me that is still in shock, that doesn’t understand the things I saw. I read some of the news, but, for the first time I can remember, I’m actually afraid to read the news. I don’t want to watch the videos. I’m afraid to know more, for the fuzzy details to crystalize, afraid to see the faces of the people I saw lying on the sidewalk across the street. I’m afraid to know the details of the dark motives that gripped the driver’s heart, leading him to turn his vehicle toward people with intention to harm.

If one thing strikes me as particularly clear from Monday, it’s that everything is not ok.

There is darkness in this world. There is evil. There is suffering. There is death. There is a profound brokenness — things are not as they ought to be. Only blind naivety could negate the evil of what happened at Yonge and Finch.

But there’s something else that has become startlingly clear too. Life matters. And the pain we experience at loss of life only signifies, only heightens our awareness of, the very value of life, its meaningfulness.

As Jordan B. Peterson put it in a dialogue at the University of Toronto earlier this year,

You say, “What does it all matter if in 10 billion years the sun is going to expand and consume the earth? What difference does it make?” And I would say, well, is that the kind of answer you’re going to give a child that’s in pain? That’s your answer? It’s like, “Hey, you’ve got the flu; you’re anxious; you’re having a nightmare; you’re in terrible pain. But in 10 million years, who the hell’s going to know the difference?” Yeah, right, no kidding, eh? If that response is absurd in that situation, then it’s an absurd response.

We are not indifferent to the pain of the loss and suffering inflicted on Monday afternoon. There is no comfort in nihilism or in the philosophy of a cold and empty universe.

My mind cannot make sense of what happened at Yonge and Finch.

To have been so near to what will forever be considered a national tragedy makes me ask questions I can never answer: What if we left the church 15 minutes earlier? And what if we went to Cha Time on the west side of Yonge instead of Gong Cha on the east side? Why did I get to walk away from Yonge unharmed?

I know it is not helpful to ruminate on such matters because I cannot change the outcome or ever find answers to such questions.

Instead, I find it helpful for my head and my heart to deeply consider this truth: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). As David Powlison writes,

Our hope rests in the unbreakable reality that [God] willingly invades the broken condition of human life — and participates. The Lord is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, full of steadfast love and faithfulness. […] He loved the broken world by sending his Son on a mission of sheer mercy, “to bind up the brokenhearted” (Isaiah 61:1). The Son willingly enters our plight. The Father gave his Son so that we who are sinful would not perish. The unbreakable love of Christ manifested in his willingness to be broken in our place. (1)

Our world is broken because of sin. But the amazing message of true Christianity is that Jesus did not remain a distant, uninterested onlooker at the scene of our brokenness. Instead he lovingly and sacrificially stepped into the fray and chose to be broken on the cross in our place. It is Jesus who “binds up the brokenhearted.” It is Jesus who offers forgiveness and life that is both eternal and full to the brim with mercy and hope. When we trust in Jesus, we enter into a relationship with the living God where we have his very presence with us in every circumstance of life, the dark and the bright.

Though I don’t agree with everything he says, I think Jordan B. Peterson got it right in that dialogue when he circled back to his example and points to the comfort, the necessity even, of persevering presence as the proper response to a child in pain,

Say you have a child who’s sick, maybe one who’s been hurt. You say, well, what do you say or do in the face of that? Well, you say, “Hey kid, I’m here with ya. I’m here beside you. It matters what’s happening to you. And we’re going to do everything we possibly can to get through this together.”

Toronto, we’re going to get through this together.

(1): David Powlison, “Speaking of Brokenness” in the Journal of Biblical Counseling (2018) 32:1.

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About the Author

J.R. Manubay

J.R. is on staff with P2C-Students at York University.

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