I read with shock the horror of Wednesday in Charleston. And I thought, “Oh no. Not again. Not again.” I read a list of names and prayed for each one, and each family, and each face I’d never seen. In utter shock, I couldn’t even cry. And then there was today. I saw three little faces staring at me from my computer. As I accepted the reality of the tragedy, I was once again overwhelmed.
Tears streamed down my face when I saw the words, “We forgive right now for everything that’s happened.”[i] Forgive. Love. After someone just killed your mama in cold blood, and she was raising you by yourself. And you are only a sophomore in college, and goodness, your little brother and sister are young. Kids. They have to grow up so fast. I can’t imagine how to begin to explain such evil that exists in the world to my little brood, and this innocent, unsuspecting family must not only face it in the worst, most painful possible way, but they choose to respond in love.
And so my heart pours out tears. Because they are right. They are right that love is more powerful than hate. They are right that forgiveness helps us heal. If these are the things that their mama taught them, then she did such a good job and she gets a gold star. She probably has more than just one gold star where she is right now, though. And she leaves behind three amazing Gold Stars to live out her legacy of love in this broken world.
And still my heart pours out tears. Because I don’t know how these littles are doing this—these two children and this barely-an-adult big brother speaking love out into the world when their main person is no longer with them. I wonder if I could do it. If I could, it would only be by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within me. I want to hold their hands and say, “Thank you,” into each of their sweet faces, for they have given a gift of hope and a ray of light into such utter awful sad darkness today. And yet they are the ones who need the most comfort right now.
Their mom would be so proud of them. And maybe this act of love can penetrate the understanding of the murderer with a broken mind and a hard heart. One day I’ll live in a kingdom where there is no hate, and certainly one where hate doesn’t beget more hate. I’m seeing a glimpse of that goodness today. It takes courage to say, “I forgive,” and greater dependence on God to live it out, but I pray that these three siblings can do just that. They are already precious light-bearers in their darkest night.
And I don’t want to forget that. Remembering these kids’ goodness and sharing it will be my way of honoring Sharonda and the eight other innocent lives this world has lost.
Let’s pay it forward. Let’s join together to love in the face of hate.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13