You’re probably aware at this point that there was another university shooting, this time at a small-ish Christian college in Seattle. It’s funny, because thousands of people die every day by violence and injustice and hatred and evil. People who are sons and daughters, teachers and grocery store clerks, parents and siblings, janitors and doctors, strangers and friends. And to these we often give at best a passing thought. Because of course, bad things only happen to other people in other places. But of course, everyone else is “other people” to other people.
So when it happens at a place so close to my home–and my heart–I pause. I didn’t actually apply to SPU, but if I had been a slightly faster runner in high school, maybe I would have. Maybe Otto Miller Hall–home to the mathematics and engineering departments–would have been my building. I went to SPU Falcon Running Camp the summer before my senior year of high school: the people I met and the experiences I had there changed me. But that’s irrelevant now. Many of my friends attend SPU; the father of one of my good friends from high school (only girls in the low brass section!) works at SPU and his office is in the building where the shooting occurred (thankfully, he wasn’t on campus at time). The student who took a risk and tackled the shooter went to high school near me and ran for their cross country team–we ran against them and went to camp with them multiple times. All to say, though I didn’t really know anyone involved, it was alarmingly close to home.
On Thursday, one very evil thing happened. But since then, hundreds or thousands of good things have happened and still are happening. I thank God that it is the latter that has been mostly covered by the media. That the name of Jon Meis, rather than the name and face of the perpetrator, is what people will remember. That SPU is being portrayed as a school in shock and grief–but not despair. That the community is lifting up victims and each other in prayer–as well as the man who acted out this evil, for it has not been forgotten that he too is made in God’s image. That the church can be a place of life and light and hope in this time of darkness.
In the past couple of days, many other things have been said about the events that have occurred since Thursday afternoon. Three articles/posts, each from very different perspectives ([updated] newspaper reporter, student, faculty member, alumni/local pastor, and the student who tackled the suspect), I would recommend follow:
“We can experience anger, even rage, but we do not give vent to vengefulness. We can experience intense grief, but we do not lose hope. We recognize the brokenness in ourselves and therefore try to extend compassion and mercy to other people whose brokenness has been unleashed,” Steele said. “This is our darkest day and our finest hour.”
I am grieving in so many ways that seem so small, at first I feel ashamed to even feel them. But as my favorite professor, Dr. Frank Spina, reminded our community last night- being a Christian forces us to be honest. In light of this tragedy, we must be honest...
Today SPU gets the terrible, awful, privilege of doing what we always do– modeling what a grace filled, Christian community looks like. With the world watching, we get to be reflections of the abounding of love of Christ. We get to reflect the Father’s broken heart for the evil in this world. We get to reflect the active and powerful movement of the Spirit.
I’m not quite ready to talk hope. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, yes. I believe in the life everlasting, as the creed puts it. But for now I grieve, as sad at dawn this morning as I was at dusk last night. Sad for the mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends grieving a lost son, urging a daughter back to life. But I confess, too, to a certain deep consolation–maybe it is hope after all–lying somewhere inside me next to that ball of grief, as I recollect the faces and faith of my students.
I saw you giving interviews to media members and inviting them to pray with you, only to have those very media members weep alongside you. In your shared confusion and lack of answers, there was hope for those trying to tell your story, for neighbors, for our city, and for our world.
…what I find most difficult about this situation is the devastating reality that a hero cannot come without tragedy. In the midst of this attention, we cannot ignore that a life was taken from us, ruthlessly and without justification or cause. Others were badly injured, and many more will carry this event with them the rest of their lives. Nonetheless, I would encourage that hate be met with love. When I came face to face with the attacker, God gave me the eyes to see that he was not a faceless monster, but a very sad and troubled young man. While I cannot at this time find it within me to forgive his crime, I truly desire that he will find the grace of God and the forgiveness of our community.