“ I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will not know wickedness.
The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart,
him I will not endure.” ~ Psalm 101:3-4,8 (NKJ)
Five of the eight men accused of murdering my young friend shuffle into the courtroom. I am in my usual place, sitting next to Rachel’s mother, third row from the front. Dead center. The bailiffs won’t permit us to sit any closer to the defendants.
I’ve lost count of how many trips we’ve made to this courtroom. Only four months have passed since this gang of men kidnapped, beat and murdered Rachel. They left her in a gravel pit, where her body laid for two weeks before we found her. Her voice has been silenced for four months, but I can still hear her laughter. Her ashes wait in a small box by her mother’s bedside for the day when Denise is ready to part with her, but I can still see her smile and the startling blueness of her eyes. Eighteen years were not enough time to take in the beauty of Rachel.
And there, in front of me, are five of the men we believe to be responsible — the men who stole her from us. I fight the tears that threaten to hinder my vision. I want to see. I want a clear view of those men. I want to try to understand how any one person, let alone a band of eight, could treat a human being so inhumanely. I hope to see something in their stance, their gaze, their expressions that will answer for the frenzy they poured out upon her.
But I find no answers, and I don’t see a shred of remorse. One orange-clad prisoner smirks in our direction. Another flashes an obscene gesture.
And I understand, then, why the guards keep us three rows back; why they won’t let us closer. I thought it was for our protection, but I understand, suddenly. The feelings that churn in me clarify the truth: They’re protecting the defendants from us.
O God, I am weary. Sin creeps among us, searching for fertile ground. It wiggles doorknobs and checks for unlocked windows and slips secretly into unguarded hearts. Once inside, if finds a quiet corner and nests there, unnoticed, while it schemes.
Your word says You hate wickedness. Can I do less? Infuriate me, Lord. Destroy my complacency, rouse me from my numbness. Fill me with intolerance. Make me see transgression with Your eyes. Give me Your heart, and make Your wrath burn in me.
Even the world fumes and rants at injustice. But they don’t rage against sin. They don’t recognize the seeds within themselves. They stop just short of honesty, just shy of self-scrutiny. But I am Yours, separated to belong to You. And what You feel, I must feel. Build in me a fierce hatred for sin — but one that goes beyond disgust at injustice. Take me further, God. Take me deeper. Make me hate the sin within my own heart.
Enrage me, Lord.
* * *
After three back-to-back trials in the spring of 2008, one man was found guilty of obstructing justice. Seven others were found guilty of the murder of Rachel Rose Burkheimer.
Last September, reporter Scott North, who was a friendly face during those difficult trials, wrote an update about Rachel’s case on the anniversary of her death. You can read it here.