On this, the anniversary of the Columbine high school shootings, I’m giving space to a book excerpt from Brady Boyd, a pastor in Colorado who has seen his own share of violent tragedy. In December 2007, a gunman opened fire at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, killing two people and wounding several others. In his new book Fear No Evil: A Test of Faith, a Courageous Church, and an Unfailing God, which releases next week from Zondervan, Rev. Boyd reflects on new life, which is the hope made real at Easter. –JKR
It has been 12 years since the Columbine shootings and just over three years since the shootings at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The school and the church are 90 miles apart but share the same legacy of mourning and remembering. As I watched and heard of memorial gatherings for the victims of Columbine, I remembered the first time our fellowship gathered after our darkest day. The following is from Fear No Evil, a book I wrote on our journey to healing which has just been released.
I learned something years ago that came to mind this week. It relates to dendrochronology, which is just a big word for analyzing a tree’s life based on the rings on its trunk that have formed throughout the years. It came to mind because I was roaming through a dense part of the forest near my home and ran across a series of trees that had been felled by lightning. I stared at the cross-section of one of those trees and noticed an irregular pattern of thick and thin rings moving out from the trunk’s center in concentric circles.
I’m not adept at reading tree rings, but people who are good at reading them can tell you with amazing accuracy how many forest fires, droughts, and beetle infestations a particular tree has withstood in its lifetime, as well as how many healthy years it has known, all by scrutinizing those rings. Which made me wonder what New Life would look like, if you cut our church in half and looked inside. I have a feeling you’d find lots of thick rings representing years and years of great growth, followed by narrow rings representing scandal and the loss of two innocent, young girls. But what energizes me is the idea that just outside of that narrowing, I believe you’d find increasingly wider rings once more—signs of redemption, renewal, and restoration.
In the quiet of the forest, I was reminded that all of us—both those who call New Life home and every Christ-follower alive today—are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, as Hebrews 12 calls them, women and men who valiantly suffered for their faith. These are the ones who stared down Satan and remained unshaken. They planted the early churches, prayed fervent prayers, and laid the firm foundation on which we now stand. They’re the martyrs we sing about in worship songs, the ones who died for the sake of God’s glory and did so with the joy of the Lord on their face, and the ones who will cheer us across the heavenly finish line someday. As I considered afresh the sacrifices they’d made, I couldn’t help but wonder what they see when they look down from their celestial seat and peek into Christ-followers’ lives today. Do they see a bunch of beaten-down believers limping their way through life, or do they see the strength of Christ made manifest as his followers claim his promises as their own?
If my two choices are becoming a victim or a victor, a victor is what I will be. Stand up. Dust yourself off. Commit yourself to the path of progress once more. There is a mountaintop on the other side. And the view is far better from there.