I sat in my car, waiting for my thirteen-year-old to come out of his school. The voice on the other end of the radio caught my attention. Something in the heavy sadness of his tone made me turn up the volume.
My heart dropped as the radio man quoted numbers.
The next morning I faced my boys, through tears, and told them they were safe. I clasped their hands, prayed for those hurting, then assured my sons that the chances of what happened in Florida the day before are small at their school.
But I know anything can happen. Evil seemed to have won the afternoon of Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida, and my heart is wrung dry as I think about the families and friends of the victims, as I think about those suffering in Florida hospitals, the memories of what happened surely too fresh and unbearable.
The footage is achingly familiar. There were signs. How could such evil have been prevented?
These things keep me, and many others, up at night. My faith is tested on these grounds. But the morning after the shooting, I was haunted by another fact . . . in just over two months, a book will be released to the world with my name on it that tackles some of the very things America is grappling with right now. And I wonder . . . Is this really what the world needs? More dark? More stories of tragedy? In Florida, families are really dealing with this. How can I pretend to know what they are going through, even in a fictional world? How can I presume to understand?
But I know something else. These issues are important, and they should be talked about with those around us. Those who share our faith and those who may not.
Some of us in the world of faith will point to sin and its undeniable hold on our culture as the reason for these recent tragedies. Violence is as old as Cain and Abel, after all. I'm not denying that, for there is no doubt this is the case. But neither do I think we can write it off with such a simple swipe—one that puts on a mask of faith while showing little real compassion for the world around us. One that ignores the necessity for God's people to work to make this messed-up world more like His Kingdom, whether it seems feasible to us or not.
I am not just pointing at our gun laws, though I do wonder why so many Christians feel so adamantly that they should be able to own military-grade weapons.
We, as Christians, have a hope of something better. But does that mean we are to ignore our present? The problems of this world? Truly, what would Jesus do in such a time as this?
I wonder if He would cling to the Second Amendment more than He clings to the second commandment (You shall not make idols.)? Would He cling to it more than He does the sixth commandment (You shall not kill.)? Would He live from a place of fear, or from a place of deep, abiding faith?
Jesus tells us not to resist an evildoer, to turn the other cheek. So where does this command meet us in our own lives?
This is hard stuff. This is where the rubber meets the road. If the greatest commandment is to love God and love my neighbors, then where does owning assault weapons for the purpose of self-defense fall? Is it an either/or matter, or is it a matter of where our hearts lie?
These are tough questions. My boys play Airsoft and laser tag. I'm constantly picking up Nerf bullets throughout the house. Does this mean my husband and I are fostering future violence? Does it mean we are raising uncompassionate young men? Men who, if given the choice, would choose their rights over faith in a Savior?
I am still grappling with these answers. But I hope to continue the hard conversation with my brothers and sisters of faith. In love. With compassion. While looking to Scripture and not my own agenda.
Jesus has freed us from sin. As Christians, we can all agree on that. So let's unite beneath that beautiful, glorious, all-consuming fact. Then, with His light before us, let's explore and work out these tricky areas of our faith.
I hope you join me.
Heidi Chiavaroli began writing 11 years ago, just after Jesus had grabbed hold of her heart. She used her two small boys' nap times to pursue what she thought at the time was a foolish dream. Heidi won the 2014 ACFW Genesis contest in the historical category. Her debut novel, Freedom's Ring, was a 4½-star Romantic Times Top Pick and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut, and her latest novel, The Hidden Side, is scheduled to release in May 2018. Heidi loves running, hiking, baking, and dates with her high-school sweetheart and husband of 14 years. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle.