Wednesday, June 30, 2010

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

On April 20, 1999 the perception of safety and security in our nation’s school system changed forever. That was the day of the Columbine High School tragedy. Twelve students and one teacher were killed in a rampage that forever altered the Denver area, and perhaps, too, the nation. On that day, I was working only about 15 miles away from the school. Of course, I responded with shock, disbelief, sadness, and even anger at those responsible.

In the wake of the tragic event, an outpouring of love and support grew into the Columbine Memorial, opened in 2007 in nearby Clement Park. The Ring of Remembrance is buffered by the Wall of Healing. Designed into the pavement is an intricate ribbon bearing the words, Never Forgotten. Every year, the media mark the anniversary, now by visiting the site and revisiting that sad day in our memories. It’s been 11 years since Columbine.
Last weekend, my son’s baseball team played a tournament at Clement Park. As we arrived and began settling in, we noticed we were playing on the Dave Sanders Memorial Field. Sanders was the teacher killed, but also noted for his bravery during the attacks, his sacrifice in saving the lives of many students and his kindhearted approach to life and the school whose students he loved. Standing at that field, with its commemorative bricks all around us, we certainly felt a sense that there is so much more to life than the game we were about to watch.

We had a couple hours between games, so we decided to take the walk up to the Memorial, located atop a steep hill west of the fields. It was a very sobering experience, to say the least. With some of the kids with us, we trekked up, pausing to take in the quietness and beauty of the vast array of columbine flowers planted along the path. The columbine is the state flower of Colorado.

As we made our way around the memorial, one thing really stood out – many of the 13 memorial plaques, one for each of those killed that day, referenced Scripture and talked about that person’s relationship with the Lord. Through my streaming tears, I felt a sense of peace come over me. Knowing that the Lord was present and with each of those individuals, even in the midst of unspeakable circumstances, truly reinforced that we are never alone. My tears turned to sobs when I read the last words of Rachel Joy Scott. When asked if she believed in God, she boldly answered, “you know I do!” What a faith declaration.

As we made our way out and began walking back down to resume the tournament, the words to the song “Kindness” by Chris Tomlin just roared in my head.

And it's Your beauty, Lord
That makes us stand in silence
And Your love, Your love, is better than life

How very true! I had stood in silence looking at those plaques, marveling at how intimately many of those killed knew the Lord. Knowing that did bring out beauty in the middle of this tragedy. Afterward, I found myself replaying Rachel’s words, “you know I do!” If I were staring death square in the face, would I have such courage?

As numerous thoughts, words and ideas swirled about in my head and heart, I began to cling to this. That our God is bigger than we can ever imagine, and yet, He is with us in every single moment of our lives. He can name stars and galaxies we don’t even know exist, and he knows every hair on our heads. And while people question how He could let this happen or where was He when it did, I say He is right there. He was on that table outside the cafeteria with Rachel Scott when her life was taken, and he was with every single person that day at Columbine. He is with me in every moment – good or bad – and He shares in both my joy and my pain. And His forgiving love is the kindness that makes me stand in awe, knowing that while I don’t deserve it, it is by His grace and mercy that I received it and that, is better than life. Yes, never forget.

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