When There’s a School Shooting in Your Backyard


J_Bethany-750Seattle Pacific University is where my parents met. It’s where my brother spent his academic career, and where I was poised to go until the moment I realized their music department wasn’t a good fit. My friend Christine is a week away from calling the school her alma mater.

It’s a campus I’m well acquainted with, and not one I would ever have anticipated to be the scene of  a violent and horrific crime. It’s surreal even now to think about “The SPU shooting.”


But the day one of my best friends spends her afternoon on campus hiding from a gunman, that’s when things get real.

It was a long afternoon of texting, “you ok?” … “How about now?” She sat in a classroom across campus from the tragedy, waiting to be told it was safe to emerge. I watched live news coverage. Questions flashed across the screen about how many shooters and victims. I prayed desperately and was devastated when I learned that Paul Lee, a student, was killed.

Though I blew right through every emotion the day it happened, the prevailing feeling surprised me: anger. Not just frustration, but a full-blown inner rage at those who threatened the safety of people I love and those who killed young college students on the brink of discovering what it means to be alive.

“IT’S NOT FAIR,” I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I wanted to punch things.

I know this space. I’ve been here before. What DOES it mean to serve this great big God who cares about the little details of our lives the same day innocent young people are shot at SPU?

Maybe it’s the easy answer for me to say we’ll never know, but I trust Him anyway. It is, in fact, reassuring to think of a God who cares about the little things, and you know what? I see God in the shooting at SPU too. Jon Meis tackling the shooter. Students helping each other. All of this.

But what do I do with all the big feelings about this tragedy so close to home? This is so big that I don’t even know how to string words together to begin to make sense of the whole thing. I don’t have the answers, an action plan, or even a way to throw money at this situation in desperation to “do something,” and that feels incredibly uncomfortable.

Here’s what I am coming to understand: I can harden my heart, one school shooting at a time, or I can fill my lungs with deep breaths of air and speak out healing into this world. Crying in anguish with the brokenhearted. Typing out the stories of the heroes, the stories of the victims, the stories of lament and eventually, maybe, of hope.

Maybe this is the thin space, maybe it’s where heaven meets earth, where darkness meets light. Beauty meets tragedy.

And please, won’t you join me? 


Image credit: Joe Mabel