A Forgotten Gift
From Psalm 74
I began a program this fall to become a public-school teacher. (If I ever seem tired or a little brain-dead, that’s probably why!) So far, I’ve loved it. I always intended to teach—I just imagined it would be in a private university or, maaaaybe, a private high school. Not public. Never public.
Yet, here I am. I believe the Lord has steered my heart this direction after many prayers of seeking a way to make a positive impact on my community. I also believe, 100 percent, I’m on the path He set, the path I should be taking. I have a tremendous amount of peace.
But also, I can’t ignore the wave of violence that’s washed over schools in the past two decades. I remember Columbine—I was ten, old enough to remember the direct impact, albeit small, it made on our family all the way in Georgia, well over a thousand miles from the high school where the shooting took place. My brother, who was in sixth grade, had to wear an ID badge around his neck every day until the end of school. Probably our county had policeman patrolling the high schools, too, with bomb dogs and metal-detector wands. I’m not sure. I just remember the ID badges because, honestly, I wanted one.
Please remember I was ten.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grieved subsequent shootings that have taken place, especially Sandy Hook. I didn’t have my small daughter at the time, but still, I wept (still do) imagining the tiny hands and faces, the horror, the loss experienced by dozens of parents, the unexpected and soul-wracking grief.
According to an article by US & World, “Since the devastating massacre at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, the United States has seen more than 230 school shootings, not including ones at colleges or universities.” And an article by CNN reports, “So far in 2019 there have been 22 shootings at US schools in which someone was hurt or killed.”
This is the climate into which I’ll be sending my daughter.
And the climate toward which I am pivoting my career.
This world can be dangerous, cruel, wildly broken. No different from the world of the psalmist, who wrote, “They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land” (Psalm 74:8 NCV). Speaking of raiders—foreign invaders—who had come in and ravaged his homeland, he grieved the devastating loss.
Yet I find it compelling: among all that was lost—we’re talking homes, fields, businesses, markets, entire cities; we’re talking family members, community leaders, and friends; all of which were burned, cut down, murdered, fully and cruelly and completely destroyed—the writer devoted his psalm to the loss of one place. The place where he worshipped the Lord.
Last week, we began a list of our gifts. Of all we wrote down, please, let’s not forget to add a place to worship the Lord. Honestly, we don’t know how long we’ll have one. Devastation can sweep through our lives in the second it takes a gunman to pull a trigger. And we shouldn’t forget the hundreds of thousands of Christians living right now, today, who have already experienced this loss:
“One in every nine Christians in the world lives in an area, or in a culture, in which Christianity is illegal, forbidden, or punished, according to the latest report on global persecution by Open Doors USA.”*
Worship is a gift. To worship freely is a rare privilege of our country and culture and time. Give thanks.
Next Week’s Reading: Psalm 75–81.
*See The Gospel Coalition for the full report.