I was out of town last week. He went to church alone. As he pulled up to church a sudden sinking feeling crept upon him. Unsettling. Unnerving. So much so that he sat outside the church in the car for well over 10 minutes breathing a silent prayer. “Please God. Not today. Not here. Not today.” He went into church and took his usual place. Right side. Near the back. On the aisle. With a clear view of the doors into the sanctuary. And a gun under his jacket. God answered his prayer. It didn’t happen. Not where he was, at least. It happened at First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs. A crazed gunman unloaded round upon round on the tiny church and the congregation who had gathered to worship. No matter how hard you try…you can’t make sense of it. It’s senseless.
As he told me about the darkness he felt that Sunday morning, hundreds of miles away from Sutherland Springs, I wondered. Was it a premonition? Or, has it just become a fact of life? Are we sitting ducks in our very own sanctuary? Is it just a matter of time before it happens here? The unthinkable is very thinkable.
We went to church together this week. As we walked in, I said “I’m almost scared to go to church anymore.” He said, “I need to order a new holster and get a bigger magazine for this gun.” I said, “What should I do if something happens? Do I try to run? Do I try to get away? Do I hide?” I know he won’t be there if gunfire erupts. He will be trying to protect a huge church full of people and I’ll be on my own. That’s the way it is. That’s the way it should be. He said, “Listen to me. If anyone starts shooting, you get under this pew right here and make like a rug. Don’t move. Play dead.” Then, he said, “I can’t even worship anymore. I come here and I’m so busy trying to watch everyone and everything, I can’t even tell you what the preacher is saying.” It’s true. And it’s sad. So very sad for so many reasons.
The service started and I was on edge. On high-alert. Every little noise seems magnified in my ears. Every motion I see out of the corner of my eye seems threatening. He catches my eye. Not because he was looking at me. Because his head really did look like it was on a swivel. His eyes were darting around. He looked just like an owl turning his head 360o; aware of every movement, every person, every sound.
And tears began to roll down my cheeks. It’s unfair. We should feel safe in our place of worship. We should never have to worry about being gunned down in a church. Or a school. Or a mall. And my husband shouldn’t feel the weight of having to stop it from happening before we are. Such a heavy burden. Yet, it is his burden. He will give up his worship for you. He will give up his safety for you. He will give up the peace he used to find in this sanctuary for you. And he will continue to pray, “Please God. Not today. Not here. Not today.”