It has been twenty years since the April 20, 1999 shooting at Columbine, yet the memories I carry and the spiritual lessons learned are still very present.
“THERE HAS BEEN A SHOOTING AT COLUMBINE…”
That day was an idle Tuesday and the first warm day of spring in Colorado. I was sitting in a high school class against my own will listening to a guest speaker. I must admit that I was not paying attention, and I was busy trying to keep my eyelids open. Before our guest was able to get through half of her talk, our assistant principle abruptly came into the room. With tears in his eyes and nervousness on his voice, he said, “There has been a shooting at Columbine.”
My heart stopped; my mind raced. Columbine was only four or five miles away, and I knew I had many friends within the walls of Columbine that day. Friends that I now consider heroes: Craig, Jon, Steve, Peter, Craig and Diana who ran the hallways with shattered glass all around, yet even in the chaos, continued to point people to eternal Hope. Peter who hid in the greenhouse, lives a life like a lighthouse. Heidi, who hid in the library, is the perfect example that God does not forget those He loves. Craig Nason, like Gideon, led others even when it looked like there was no way to win. Craig Scott, while covered in the blood of his friends, not only got himself to safety but helped others as well. In the hardest days of his life, he still told the world of his hope in Christ.
THE LESSONS LEARNED THAT APRIL 20, 1999
The stories from that day go on and on, but it is stories like theirs that I learned, God does not hide, He makes himself clear over and over.
I am not sure that I have even prayed or thought of my faith in God before noon that day. By the afternoon, my faith and prayer were all that I had to hold on too. The next day, April 21st, I stood on the other side of the yellow police tape near Columbine, praying for God to make Himself clear. I was with three other students; Craig, Sean, Justin and I did TV interviews telling the world that we had hope in Christ. At about two o’clock that afternoon, after Craig had found that he lost his friend Cassie in the shooting, we all held each other and wept. For about twenty minutes we prayed, and then we began to sing.
FINDING HOPE AMID THE TRAGEDY
As we sang worship songs to God, I began to hear many other voices. I looked up to find that almost all of the people in the park had gathered around our circle. They were singing with us, even those who did not know the words. They just wanted in on the hope that we had found.
At one point I cried out, “God if there is anyone in this circle that does not know you, may they cry out to you right now!” Then I heard the most beautiful sound I have ever heard in my life – many voices began to call out to God. It was at that moment, only yards away from the school, the tragedy became triumph. No longer was it a day of death, but of life. It was a day where it seemed that God was nowhere to be found, but the whole time He was waiting for us to return.
A GOD WHO DOES NOT HIDE
Returning to God in faith is a lot like when I was young and would wander away from my mom in a store. Soon, whatever the distraction was that took me from my mom would fade and I would realize that she was nowhere in sight. I would begin to cry and scream at the top of my lungs. My mom would hear me, and in her soothing mom voice call me back to herself. In a similar way, God does not hide, He just wants for us to come back to Him. We may have wandered and not even known it. But in the very instant that we call on Him, He comes close and brings us back.
Where were you on April 20th, 1999? What do you remember?
How has God shown Himself present in times where He’s difficult to see?