By Anlee Fekkes
Today starts in grief. I know joy comes in the morning, but today mourning comes in the morning. Yesterday a horrific tragedy took place. A person entered a school with a purpose to end other’s lives. We’re familiar with this story. It seems to be on repeat. Some details are different this time. Instead of a resource officer standing by the door, a cross stood. Instead of a public school shooting, a Christian school in a church was the setting. These schools do not post guards. They post welcome. All are welcome. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Those are the words of Christ, the head of the church, the “post” that stands at the door for all those that call him Savior.
My heart is hurting. A friend sent me a post about the shooting. It was a call to prayer for the pastor of Covenant Pres. Church where the shooting took place. As you can imagine, the pastors of the church are facing their flock today, a flock that is grieving and wailing. I tried to read the post to my husband this morning, but I couldn’t read the words. Too many tears were ready to fall and my voice couldn’t project. The reason? The pastor of Covenant Pres. Church lost his daughter yesterday in the shooting. He lost his beautiful and beloved little girl. He is waking up as a pastor of a church that has suffered incredible loss. Yet he himself, his wife, and his children have suffered the loss of God’s precious gift of life. I couldn’t read this call to prayer because my husband is also a pastor. I have watched him be situationally close to suffering since God called him to plant and pastor our church. I’ve watched him suffer and suffer well while leading well. I’ve seen him suffer headaches from emotional exhaustion. I’ve seen his body weighed down by the weight of taking complex hardships and instances of disunity to Christ in prayer. I’ve seen him– like the good pilgrim, Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress– relieved of his burden by the grace and kindness of Christ to care for my husband and his call to care for his flock.
JJ Heller’s song, You Already Know resonates with me today: Everything around me seems uncertain. My weary heart can’t take much more surprise. I need to tell you that I’m scared. I feel completely unprepared. But you already know everything I’m scared of and everything I hope. You hold my tomorrows and all tomorrow holds. You already know. I can’t seem to find the easy answers. Someday I hope this suffering makes sense. I just need to know that you are with me. Even if you keep me in suspense. And we talk so much these days because I have so much to say. You stay and listen to me closely through it all. You already know.
The song ends with echoes of Psalm 139: Whatever I’m feeling, whatever is coming, whenever the ending, you’re already there. You go before me. You go behind me. Wherever I’m going you’re already there.
Yesterday an image bearer took an image bearers life. Yesterday an image bearer died. Yesterday a pastor called into the service of Christ, lost his daughter. God, in infinite, unfathomable love, willingly gave his son for image bearers of all kinds: those that mourn the loss of life, those that lose their life, and those that take life. That pastor knows something of what God felt when Christ undertook the cross.
Yet that pastor is also waking up this morning to the comfort of the gospel and resurrected life. I thank God for this comfort because it isn’t temporary. It is eternal. It will carry him through every single hard day to come. It will sustain his marriage, and his relationships with his children. Jesus, in his infinite knowledge, knew that we would suffer such great hurts that we would need this eternal comfort in this life. And he made that comfort real through the cross and his Spirit. Then he instructed his church to be a comfort to those that are hurting .We are to put on compassionate hearts for one another. We are to mourn with those that mourn. We are to be the hands and feet and hearts of Jesus for a hurting world. That includes the shooter and their family.
Churches are not hate factories. They aren’t places where plans are made to destroy the wills and ways of people pursuing their own happiness. They are comfort hospitals. They are classrooms for pursuing Jesus. They are wells of welcome to those burdened and hurting. They are places where conviction is lived out by those giving up the pursuit of their own happiness in this world for the joy set before them – glory with Christ and God the Father. Churches are triage centers for those wanting the only sustainable thing this world has to offer – Christ.