I sat just feet from the bullet holes in the wall that had been made hours before in the middle of the night. The bullet entered this quiet suburban home uninvited. Whizzing through the air it passed within twelve feet of the father of the house. On seeing the drywall burst from the wall, he hit the floor. He yelled to family snuggled in their beds upstairs to do the same. The family recounted that it had sounded like fireworks. They heard around 8 pops and then the quiet of the December night returned. The quiet returned but the bullet had taken with it their sense of security.
Fear lingered in the air as the police came to investigate. They retrieved the bullet from the family room wall. Sleep did not come easy for the two high school girls who opted to sleep in the bedroom with mom for the remainder of the night. This was not a night to act grown-up; it was a time to accept the comfort of being close to mom.
Morning came and the routines of life called once again to be done: get dressed, brush teeth, make coffee, prepare breakfast. Normal routines did not take away the bullet holes in the walls or erase the fears that they had planted. The evil of the world had penetrated the safety felt within the walls of this cozy home. Life now felt uncertain.
Tragedy was in the news in other communities, but this danger had literally come home. We struggled to make sense of the event. Why would someone drive through a quiet neighborhood firing a semiautomatic weapon at houses? How can people be so casual about human life? How could a bullet fired streets away have found its way into this house? The family recounted their move out of the city to raise their kids in a quiet suburb. Gun violence had seemed like a big city issue, not quiet suburban concern.
Sitting near those bullet holes, we shared cookies and uttered our fears out loud. Is a brick house safer? But what then; do we barricade ourselves behind bullet proof glass and cower in fear? No, we cannot give evil the final word! Brick and mortar will never give us the security for which we are searching. This was a difficult experience that no one should have to go through and it shook our sense of security, but it also was a reminder of from where our sense of security comes. If we are looking to anything other than God, we will find ourselves disappointed.
Psalm 46 tells us that God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging.
We could translate this psalm to our situation saying: we will not fear, though the bullets fly and violence enters our neighborhood, though we lose our sense of security and shake with tears in the kitchen. How might you rewrite this psalm to the fears that you face in your life? Though the diagnosis is cancer, though my family is fractured, though I lose my job, or never marry or have children. No matter what we face God is our refuge and we do not need to fear.
As we sat together, we assured one another that God is still in control even when we face dark times. It reminded me of the words of the song I learned in first grade:
This is My Father’s World.
O let me ne’er forget
that though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad.
Wrong had seemed very strong, but our Lord still reigns, so let us find reason to rejoice. As we sat together we were able to see past our fears to see some reasons for rejoicing. We saw God’s provision in keeping the family safe, and life is not to be taken for granted. We were thankful for the care of police officers who came to offer assistance and for a police chief who showed concern for the needs of the community. We were grateful for Christmas cookies and a chance to care for one another in a difficult time. Thank you Lord! O Come Immanuel!
Rev. Deb Koster
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra