Just hours after returning home from a Redemption Group Immersion where lay leaders help participants experience the transforming love of God in life’s deepest areas of sin and suffering, I heard the horrific news that a gunman, hunkered down on the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas hotel room, rained down thousands of rifle rounds on people attending a country music festival. The early reports indicated that the gunman had killed at least fifty people and that hundreds of others were injured. Seeing the headline cross my news feed, my mind flashed back to the grief-stricken face of a woman in my group who shared that her son had been violently and senselessly murdered. She was so brave to invite us into her forever-changed world and continue walking forward in the costly knowledge that life sometimes brings unbelievable unexpected tragedies.
Because of this woman’s willingness to join us in the midst of her pain, I couldn’t help but imagine the fifty families and their communities who would soon be sojourning in this same place of grief. It’s shattering. And deafening. And, often, very lonely. Also journeying there will be the injured hundreds and the thousands who may have escaped physical harm, but didn’t evade the potentially countless nights of traumatic sights and sounds that will disrupt their lives for days, months, or even years.
I fell asleep praying for this woman, and for all the people affected by the Las Vegas shooting, knowing that, even with helpful people in their lives, the road ahead is paved with anguish and suffering. May the God of all comfort, comfort those who mourn.
When I got home this afternoon, my seventeen-year-old son met me in the stairwell. “Hey, Mom,” he said, with that subtle emotional tone that says, “Pay attention. I need you.”
He asked me if I knew about the shooting and before I could say anything more, he told me a high school friend of his was in Las Vegas attending the concert. I immediately lost my breath. I fought to focus on his words. He explained that right before the shooting started, she had just left the concert. His classmate told him she was staying in the same hotel, on the same floor as the shooter.
I sat down on the step. “She Snapchatted me last night, Mom. She was there and heard the gunfire, and so she turned off the lights and sheltered in place.” My son said he lost his breath, too, until he saw the bubbles bouncing on his phone, indicating that she was still typing.
“I was relieved she was still alive, so we kept texting. She thought she was going to die.” He said she was on lockdown for 6 hours, and, though he didn’t know what to say, he wanted to be with her any way he could.
And that’s not unlike my experience with the woman in my group. While I may not have had many words to say, I too wanted to be with her any way I could. I wanted her to know she wasn’t alone. Perhaps this is one of the most important ways we are invited to be like Jesus. To be present. To comfort those who mourn.
“I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” —1 Cor. 2:3