On The Shootings Back Home

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With some things just are no words to say.

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A recent school shooting in my hometown of Roswell, New Mexico has been very sobering for me. It has brought the story closest to my heart. I’ve spent the day unnerved, unsettled, and unrestful.

And even though I’m a writer, I just feel I have no useful words to write.

My heart goes out to families. My heart goes out to children. My heart goes out to teachers. My heart goes out to one student who felt it was necessary to bring a gun to school and unload it on his fellow students.

I am not angry at this young man. In fact, I don’t know what I am. Confused? Frustrated? I can’t tell. Whatever it is I’m feeling towards this boy, it has me greatly bothered.

What would I say to him if I had the chance? I don’t know. What would I do if I saw him? Try to love him? Try to hit him out of anger? I asked myself this as I was driving home yesterday, thinking about the tragic, horrifying incident that has happened just miles from my home. I’m confused. I’m deeply bothered.

And then I became at conflict with myself.

You see, I believe in grace. I believe in the unadulterated, unelicited, forgiving kind of grace. I believe in grace so much, that I even wrote a book about it coming out later this month. I live my life believing that grace is fundamental to the foundation of love. At least I say I do. Now I’m faced with putting my beliefs where my mouth is.

Does this kid deserve grace? Does he deserve to be forgiven? Am I about to extend my arms and give him both my full supportive grace and an abundance of love? If I really believe in grace, if I really believe that grace is the fundamental point of love, then I ought to extend it to him.

But I don’t want to.

The story isn’t political. It has nothing to do with laws, or security, or who is supposed to be where and are they supposed to be there without clearance. For me, the story is about seeing whether grace is really true in my life or whether it’s just a fanciful idea concocted out of wishful thinking.

It was easy, comparatively, to write a fiction story about a character receiving grace. It’s easy to sit behind a computer or a notebook and cram out a story about grace and why it is so important and how it can save the world. It is altogether troubling and confusing to look down the street to see a crime scene that beckons me to shower it in love and grace. All of a sudden, it isn’t so easy.

I believe in grace. Maybe I believe in it because I needed so desperately. Yet I’ve put myself in almost impossible situation where I must extend grace to another human when it is neither easy nor popular. I don’t know this kid. But that doesn’t make a difference. He’s a boy. A child who like the rest of us – whether we would like to believe it or not – has fear in his heart that makes him cower and tremble when no one watches.

I sometimes tremble and cower. I know that feeling.

Whether I want to or not, I must extend him grace. I must extend him love. I’m obligated. I have no choice. Though part of me doesn’t want to, out of anger and out of frustration, I also know that he and I are not that different.

We both are afraid of fear.

I neither justify his actions nor believe in a world without consequences. But I must also recognize that this child, this boy, is just like me. We are both human. We both have fears. And we both desperately need grace shown out of love.

I refuse to believe that this story must end in disaster. It may, and if it does it is by our own doing. I must, however, believe that no matter what happens there is still hope for redemption, because if I don’t, I don’t really believe in grace. It is by grace that this story can be saved, which comes through faith. That means patience.  That means forgiveness. That means love.

So I must go and live by grace. Though I write about stories that redeem heroes through grace, I find it infinitely harder to do this in real life. Perhaps you’ll join me believing in grace. Perhaps you’ll join me in living with grace. But if you don’t, I understand.

Trust me. I understand.

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4 thoughts on “On The Shootings Back Home

    Amanda Hunter said:
    January 15, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I love reading your blog! And I really love this message. In our world today, grace is definitely not given enough. It’s so hard to do, especially with a situation like this. There are so many terrible things that people do that I just don’t understand, but the truth is that they deserve grace just as much as I do. As Christ followers, giving grace to others is not something we are very good at, so thank you for reminding us that we are called to do so. Kyle and I will be praying for your family and friends in Roswell. Love you guys!!

    David said:
    January 15, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Thoughtful article. Grace is so unlike us. Our natural inclination is to cry for justice. We are more like Jonah than Jesus. To suggest grace for a child killer offends us and in one sense rightfully so. Grace given to one who doesn’t deserve it, unless of course its us. Our ability to give grace is greatly impaired when we have no relationship with a person. On the other hand, if we are in relationship our response is often different.

    I have good friends whose son over 30 years ago climbed up on a building and shot and killed several innocent people who were walking on the street below. That boy, now a man, remains in prison today. He is hated, reviled and every time he comes up for parole an emotional angry crowd gathers to march and protest against it. He is guilty of an unspeakable act of violence. He deserves to be in prison. No one disputes that.

    And yet, when the person is someone you know, whose family you know and love, you feel differently, you think differently. You ask questions exploring the why of such senseless actions rather than cry out in anger against those actions. Inclination to care about a killer is not an indication of not caring about those he killed or their loved ones. It is only that when we are in relationship with someone, when we love someone, we are inclined to be more gracious, even when that person is guilty of heinous acts.

    Such violent moments reveal again that we are not God. He alone is universally gracious for he alone is universally loving. He alone is sufficiently aware of all the variables to be able to solve the divine equation of justice and grace. Our solutions are necessarily uninformed of the variables needed for a graciously just solution. Being ill-informed and ill-equipped for such judgments, we must discipline our responses to make sure our justice is not merely cloaked vengeance and our grace not indifference.

    May God’s will be done for all the souls in Roswell, and us as well.

    Beth said:
    January 16, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Amen where thre is grace there is forgiveness and thats what we all ned to do, for that boy, as you said he is only a child reacting to something very hurtful in his life, Right or wrong we can forgive what our heavenly father has already forgiven.

    Paul Mazan said:
    January 16, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I’m not sure what grace is in this case and I admire those of you who are so forgiving and religious that you are able to feel love and forgiveness without exception. Unfortunately, I am not. I would have to know this child’s story and his reasons before I could judge my reaction. Perhaps it is because I have worked in a county jail and known killers and other criminals more intimately than most. Believe me, there are evil people in this world that do not deserve your forgiveness or pity. Call them possessed, insane, or victims of society but in them is irredeemable evil. Others, no matter what their crime, were victims of circumstance and with grace love and caring they can be rehabilitated. The trick is telling them apart. I am far removed from the scene and hope this young man was driven to this act and that as he matures he gets the help he needs to be able to live with what he has done and no longer pose a threat to others. May your community heal and God’s Grace touch each and every one of you.

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