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Screengrab via Washington Post

I usually stay away from stories like Mackenzie Lueck’s. They’re usually reported for their implied salaciousness, a true crime story that if true would be astounding. In all it’s truth, it’s a sad story. A college student goes missing after traveling back from a funeral. She’s then found dead not far from campus, a man appearing to burn some of her body — and her belongings — in his backyard.

We later found out that she knew her alleged killer, they sent text messages hours before they met up in a park. Her Lyft driver said that she didn’t seem to be in distress when he or she dropped her off there. The alleged killer first claimed that he did not know her yet police found photos of her in his phone. With that, the narrative changed. She was not longer this innocent sorority girl snatched away in the middle of darkness by a deranged man. She became a “sugar baby” who met the wrong man on a “hook up that went wrong” who is somehow now responsible for what happened to her. Her sorority sisters try so desperately to defend the girl they knew as “kind”, “sweet” and a “beautiful spirit”. It’s not enough.

But what it feels like, to me, is second-hand victim blaming.

I wasn’t surprised.

I fail to see how Mackenzie is at fault for what happened to her. Even if she met up with this person with any intention, there is an expectation of safety and common ground. At any point if she was to feel that to be violated, she can leave. Those are rules to life. These stories, these headlines that claim that her alleged sexual life was the cause of her death, erase what happened to her. She was killed, maimed and burned. How is that egregious act of violence her fault?

All of my bells and whistles went off when I first heard about this story. We don’t know how Mackenzie and her alleged killer knew each other. We don’t know the reason for their encounter. At this point, it’s all conjecture. But after reading her story and all of the unfounded theories about her death, I suddenly became washed over with guilt.

I don’t know Mackenzie’s story but I know mine. I was a girl who met up with random men. I was a girl who had text conversations with strangers. I was a girl who sent attachments to men of whom I had no idea who they were — or what they did with those pictures and videos. I was a girl who slept with two men within a twelve hour period, men that lived fifteen minutes away from each other.

It does make me look back at my life’s decisions with a litany of guilt. While I am always thankful for God’s grace, it oftens leads me down a path to where I wonder “why me and not her?” I cringe when people say that my life “still has purpose” or that God decided that my story “was not over” or that there is “still work to do.” She didn’t have purpose? She didn’t have work to do? There wasn’t a grand plan still left for her to execute? Why was that decision made? Why couldn’t we both still be here?

On paper, I shouldn’t be here. Everything that I have done, every wild decision I made, every false choice should have resulted in a life that would not be here right now. I wonder if that’s why God allows me to be so transparent about that part of my life, as if I’m to tell this story in hopes that someone will understand that grace and mercy are real and that your life is not defined by your past decisions. God has the power to redeem everybody. But I wonder why redemption brings guilt.

Why I sit her wondering if she should be here and not me. Even without stories like Mackenzie’s, I wonder all the time.

This is my attempt to write every day for the month of July. Follow the hashtag #wedj2019 to read more!

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