I have a lot of things I want to write about. I still need to post about the Influence Conference which was so incredible and life giving. But right now I'm just so upset that I feel the need to pour out my heart into what is incredibly awful and life stealing.
I'm talking about all these shootings and specifically attacks based on religion.
Now, I'm not here to get into some political debate - so please be respectful of my feelings and pain. But please also hear me out.
I've struggled with this topic for a while. I go through times where I think about it and then I am able to forget for a while and then something like this happens and it all comes back to me.
I don't remember where I was the day the kids were shot at Columbine. But I will never forget the fear I had. The horror. The absolute heart break as my mind tried to imagine what it would be like to go through such an awful thing. Who can forget Newtown and those sweet little innocent souls who lost their life because of someone elses inability to process their emotional anguish?
I know there are others but these are the two that always stick in my head. And now Oregon.
The similarities between Oregon and Columbine that has my heart aching something fierce today, is the question that ultimately defines if you will live or if you will die at the hands of a shooter;
"Do you believe in God?"
Life. or Death.
The spacing is on purpose. The question is heavy. Really think about it.
It feels like just yesterday that I wrestled with what I would do in that situation. Back then I believed in God but didn't know anything about a gospel or that Jesus died for me. Hanson wrote a song called "This Time Around" and it was written after the Columbine shooting. Some of the lyrics still haunt my soul;
"I heard they told her, it was tell and live or die. I didn't know her, but I know why she lied. I didn't know her, but I know why she died."
Like. Wow. Can you even imagine? Despite the rise in violence and heartache in this world, I still live a pretty cushy life. Yes, I worry about shootings almost more than is probably considered reasonable and I always have. But my life is fairly 'safe'.
I used to struggle with whether I'd answer truthfully or not. But now that I have this relationship with God and I know that Jesus died for me, I think I might struggle more. The natural tendency is to lie because the fear of being shot and killed is so powerful.
"All I know is that the fear has got to go, this time around..."
Yet, the more I come to know who Jesus is and what He did for me, the more I come to love Him. The more I truly, truly believe in the gospel and that's it's more than just something we talk about on Sundays. It's a way of life, down in my bones, deep in my heart, in the aching of my soul, it's the real deal. How honorable to die for the one you love? Especially when the One you love has already saved you for all of eternity?
The bible actually talks about this. In Revelation it says; "Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4)
They came to life.
The book of Matthew says "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." BLESSED. Blessed are you, so blessed you get to reign with Christ in Heaven. (Matthew 5:11)
Finally, I think of the book of Luke where he says "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." (Luke 9:24) Death is not really death when there's an afterlife waiting for you. When death has already been conquered and victory already won, death is not the end but the beginning of something so beautiful.
Living like your dying isn't living at all
Give me your cold hands
Put them on my heart
Raise a glass to everyone
Who thinks they'll never make it through this life
To live a brand new start
We are going to live tonight
Like there's no tomorrow
Cause we're the afterlife
- Ingrid Michealson
While I still don't know how I'd ever be able to stand up for my faith like those brave and beautiful souls who have gone before me, I know that I'm more sure of it now than I've ever been... My faith is strong and my God can save...and if not, He's still good.
To all those who have been and will be persecuted for their faith, I send you my heart. To all of those who stood fear in the face and said "I won't back down" I am in awe of you. You're bravery and faithfulness is such a beautiful tribute to your life and furthermore your faith. You are loved.