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Reflecting on the site of tragedy
God remains our source of courage when we're traumatized by terror, when we're haunted by the headlines and the violence everywhere. God can feel the pain of suffering when our hearts leak like a sieve, when collegians in their classroom are denied their right to live.
When I journaled those words after the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech seven years ago, it never occurred to me that my journal entry would apply to my own alma mater. As details emerged about the tragedy at Seattle Pacific University, I recalled what I had previously penned. I also fixated on the location of the violence, the Otto Miller Science and Engineering Building. And for good cause.
As I prepared to graduate from SPU forty years ago this month, I was asked to serve as the student chairman for a major gifts campaign to purchase a large industrial building adjacent to Royal Brougham Pavilion on lower campus. When pledges were made and funds received, the Arc-Weld manufacturing building would become our school’s new Science Learning Center. The blueprint for the repurposed building promised future students state-of-the-art technologies and opportunities to pursue an education that honored both faith and scientific findings.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony that celebrated the redemption of an old warehouse was truly memorable. It was also symbolic. The reclamation of a building pictured the purpose of this Christian liberal arts institution. And the complex that would eventually be renamed Otto Miller Hall lived up to its expectations.
Now, however, those joyful memories have been replaced by thoughts of a deranged shooter who killed a freshman student, injured others and wounded the soul of a university community.
Gratefully that familiar building also conjures up images of a courageous student who disarmed the gunman and -- putting his own life at risk -- saved countless other lives.
Simply said, what I choose to focus on will determine my awareness of God’s presence. The rest of my years-old journal entry calls to mind the choice with which we are faced when blindsided by tragic circumstances.
God invites us to be trusting when we find that faith is hard. When we're fearful for our safety and our nerves are frayed or jarred. Still God whispers in the silence, "Even when your faith is weak, I will keep your feet from stumbling when your way is dark and bleak."
Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos is the chaplain at the Covenant Shores Retirement Community on Mercer Island.