There are some things that, as a parent, you pray will never, ever happen, and I often wonder how my heart would survive if something terrible happened to my child, or if they were the perpetrator of something terrible. This is why I wanted to know more about Tim Kreider‘s story, as he has lived through the scenario that every parent dreads. He tells his story with humility and hope, and I am privileged to have him here today:
On Mother’s Day weekend of 2007, during the early hours of Saturday morning, three people were brutally murdered in the safety of their own home. The youngest victim, Kevin, was 16 years old and one of the best friends of my oldest son Alec. In addition to Kevin, both of his parents were killed. Somehow his older sister was able to escape the home and call for help. We would later find out that she was able to escape because the killer didn’t know she was home.
The only weapon used was a knife and thus the crime scene was particularly brutal. Nothing was stolen and no one could imagine any reason why someone would want to hurt this family. The nature of the crime put the entire community into a state of fear. If this could happen to them, none of us were safe!
The crime went unsolved until early June. It was then that a 16 year-old classmate of Kevin’s confessed to his mother and father that he was responsible for the murders.
That student, was my oldest son, Alec.
Hearing my son say, “I killed Kevin and his parents” was at first surreal, but it only took a few moments for the realization to set in that his life and that of our family were going to forever change in ways that I could have never imagined. A father’s first instinct is to protect his children. How could I protect Alec in this situation?
Yet, I had to consider what was the “right thing to do” and I had a responsibility to the community and the Haines family. They deserved to know what happened! But how can a father turn in his own son for such a crime? Should he? How is that protecting my son?! Then I thought about my two other children and how I could protect them from this pending storm. There seemed to be no options but to do what I immediately knew was the right and only thing to do.
Two days later I would find myself providing a statement to the police. My son would eventually be sentenced to 3 consecutive life sentences without parole.
This was the beginning of the darkest and most desperate time of my life.
I struggled with an immense sense of guilt and failure. There were these pervasive thoughts constantly running through my head. I should have seen it coming. Alec had been depressed and angry for a long time. Even though I tried to get him to talk to someone I should have been more forceful. Why didn’t I get my son help before it was too late? So much lost for so many because I was a failure as a father. Every time I had lost my temper with Alec or not been the father I should have been, played over and over in my head. This was my fault! So many lives destroyed because I was a failure.
The depth of my soul ached and depression set in. Physically and emotionally I was deteriorating. I remember telling my wife Lynn that it felt like I was losing days off the end of my life, the pain and grief ran that deep.
It became obvious to me that this situation was bigger than me and that I would not be able to lift myself out of the depths of my despair on my own. I sought out a psychologist for support. He was an unbiased third-party and it was a safe place to be broken and honest about how I was feeling. I read numerous books on self-help, spiritual growth and coping. Anything that was positive and uplifting. It wasn’t limited to Christian works but also spiritual writings, books on Buddhism and more. Together they gave me a greater appreciation for our struggles, life and my faith.
We started a non-profit website, www.also-me.org as an outreach to help others. I couldn’t allow this event to be just another senseless tragedy. It couldn’t be undone, but perhaps we could spare such pain and grief for another family and community? For a period of time I became consumed with its design, content and messages. It was a pathway for me to make a difference. It was freeing and gave me a purpose. Helping others truly does help ourselves!
Amazingly, the community responded to our family and myself with great compassion. I received hundreds of letters of support and encouragement, most of them from people I didn’t even know. I would often sit quietly, reading them over and over, crying as I let the compassion of others wash over me. It was an immense comfort to know others were praying for Alec and my family and were not blindly judging us.
It took nearly 18 months before I began to feel like I was able to concentrate and be as productive at work as I had been prior to these events. My emotional recovery and peace took much longer. This type of event drags out for a long time. The wheels of justice move slowly and as a result there were constant reminders and things to do that continued to open the wounds. Adding to this difficulty was the constant emotional toll of visiting my son in prison. It took a great deal of energy to be positive for Alec, deal with the emotional turmoil he was experiencing, and constantly confront all that had been lost.
My faith has been one of the most prominent sources of strength throughout this ordeal. At the time the events took place I was new in my walk with God. It was autumn of the prior year when I first truly accepted God and finally believed He loved me. So, when my world fell apart the following spring it was a cross-road for me. Do I blame God and turn away from God, or do I turn to God for the strength to endure? I guess the deciding factor for me was that I don’t believe God controls every aspect of our lives, or that He is “responsible” for everything that happens to us and what others do.
To me God’s heart aches, just as ours does, with every injustice and tragedy that takes place in this world. The world has been set in motion, we all have free will and horrible things happen because of the choices we make and according to the laws of this world. It isn’t God’s Will that we suffer and for bad things to happen.
As I explored my relationship with God, it became more evident to me that God is Love and eternal. Everything of this world; our relationships; the pain and the pleasure; the success and the failures, the wealth and the poverty and our sickness and health, are temporary.
The only thing that is everlasting is God’s Love and our relationship with Him. At the end of our days here on this earth nothing else will matter except for our relationship with God. Our soul can be at peace now, here on this earth, if we only recognize what is truly important and eternal and let go of all that is temporary and distracts us from God.
I am far from perfect in living true to this on a daily basis but the awareness helps me cope and move on more quickly. In my journey to become whole again and survive, my relationship with God grew, became broader and deeper. As I sought to understand not why things happened, but how God and focusing on Him can bring peace no matter what may be happening here and now, peace followed.
Tim Kreider is passionate about helping people find healing and wholeness. He shares his story at churches, businesses, youth groups and other gatherings, and he started a non-profit organization called Also-Me that encourages people not to live life alone. He lives in Womelsdorf, PA with his wife Lynn.
You can find him at refusetodrown where you can book him as a speaker, and buy his book Refuse to Drown.
[tweetit]“Hearing my son say, “I killed Kevin and his parents” was surreal” Tim Kreider tells his God and Suffering story: [/tweetit]
[tweetit]“God’s heart aches, just as ours does, with every injustice and tragedy that takes place in this world.”- Tim Kreider[/tweetit]
[tweetit]“I would often sit quietly, crying as I let the compassion of others wash over me.”- Tim Kreider on God and Suffering[/tweetit]
[tweetit]“At the end of our days here on this earth nothing else will matter except our relationship with God.” – Tim Kreider[/tweetit]
Over to you:
- When have you been in an ‘unthinkable situation’?
- When have you been ministered to by the unexpected compassion of others?