I want to start this blog, by saying that I have willfully avoided reading, or watching news about the shooting that took place in Sutherland Springs, Texas, this past Sunday. In a world where information is so easy to attain, where news will be in front of us whether we want it or not, just by opening our Facebook, or other social media; where we cannot hide from the facts…I think sometimes it is important to try. I say this not because I want us to be ignorant of the suffering around us, but because I want us to be aware of the strength within us. I have been struggling with my depression this week, and I knew that the events that unfolded in that tiny church, were more horrific than I was able to bear.
All that being said, while I have not sought out information or the how or why, I have been deeply grieved by the loss. Empathy — real empathy — comes from having experienced the same situations that others around you are facing. I will never pretend to know the true anguish those families in Sutherland Springs are going through. But I will say I have always been able to in some way “feel” others’ pain. Whether it be a deep cut that needs stitches, or the loss of a family member or pregnancy; my body will hurt, or my heart will break with another in those times. My heart is shattered this week.
In the midst of all the noise about gun control and mental illness treatment, behind the roar about who fired the kill shot who took out this devil, in all the pain and confusion — one loss has stood out in my mind. The loss of place.
As Christians our churches — especially small churches like First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX — these buildings often represent a huge part of our lives. The building itself holds so many memories. The people, the pews, the Sunday School rooms, the smells, the way the door squeaks, and the water fountain shoots too far… Things we don’t think about in the day to day, but in years to come we want to look back on them and smile.
In a way, I have experienced that loss. You see, through some selfish and unbiblical decisions, I have lost all respect for the people that meet in a building that holds some very fond memories. And while I no longer care to associate with any of those people it hurts me that I can’t return to that building. I know that sounds strange, even selfish, in the wake of the loss; but it is something to consider. If I am sad to have lost a building that everyone still walks in and out of alive and healthy each week, how do the people who lost so many lives in one day see their sanctuary?
As humans we want very much to be able to return to “simpler times” whenever we are hurting. Maybe that means wanting to go eat Thanksgiving dinner with grandma. But grandma is gone and her house has been sold. We can’t return to the place we see holding those memories.
The families that were ripped apart in the most savage fashion, while sitting in what should be their place of refuge, can no longer return to a church building that holds fond memories. Even if the building could be scrubbed clean, until there wasn’t a trace of the massacre left… the fond memories are gone too. How can they remember running and laughing at VBS, in a building that broke them apart? How can the smell of the church remind them of good times, when their ears are ringing gun shots? How can a mother smile about her son’s baptism, when she no longer has her son? The emotions of their loss are simply overwhelming.
Now, I know for many, the shock, loss, and pain are still too much to even consider what has happened to a building. I know when you are burying multiple generations of your family all at once, the building you lost them in may not seem important. But I also know, in the back of their minds, sits a child that just wants those memories back.
So while the nation argues over gun control, and how and why, and all of those things — I pray these families are able to some day find their sense of place again. I pray they are able to build a new church that holds strength. A building that reminds them of the time a community, a state, and hopefully a nation came together to create new memories.
I will pray.
In memory of all of those who lost their lives November 5, 2017
First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas
In honor of those who are forever changed by this horrific event.