{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 29~He is Close Even in the Darkest of Days

Yesterday was an important day in the history of our church. As you may know, my husband and I serve at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Yes, THAT New Life. The New Life that pressed on through a change in leadership and a shooting on our campus, resulting in injuries and the death of two beautiful teenage girls~all within the span of 13 months. Yesterday was the 5 year anniversary of the shooting. We celebrated by hearing testimonies of God's faithfulness and worshiping the God who held us through it all.

The Works Family | 5 Years Later from New Life Creative on Vimeo.

But Brad and I weren't there that day. As I attended the services yesterday, I couldn't help but think back on the past 6 1/2 years...

Brad and I moved to Birmingham, AL in August of 2006, after serving at New Life for 10 years. You may remember our story of meeting there and marrying there. We were in the midst of growing our family there but after a prompting (that really lasted 4 years) from the Lord, moved to serve with another church. Several months later we were answering questions about our move. Had we known about all that was going on with our pastor? No, we hadn't KNOWN anything. We were following the direction of God to move. That November, when our pastor was accused of a "moral failure", we were as surprised as everyone else.

Those two events, the move and the "scandal" that happened, began the hardest 2 years of our married life. I was 7 months pregnant with our 4th child when we moved. We left almost all of our family in Colorado and moved to a city where we knew only a few friends. Our Colorado house didn't sell and our finances began to take a dive.

Brad was overseas that Thursday when the news broke that things at New Life would never be the same. I remember our Birmingham pastor calling to check on me. As I wept over the phone, he assured me that "everything would be okay." I didn't know how that could be true, but I held onto the strength that those words provided. Brad and I didn't sleep that entire weekend. I had a 3 week old baby to attend to and my other 3 children to feed and care for. I would stay up at night to pray and talk with Brad, who's time zone was the opposite of mine. I was on the phone a lot~getting reports and updates and crying with friends from home.

The months that followed were extremely hard. Our hearts were breaking. The personal hurt was one thing, but to watch our closest friends and family struggle to keep the church family together was especially difficult. There were accusations and hurt feelings and people leaving...it was everything I had ever heard about when churches struggle and we were experiencing it. The media frenzy around our extended family was something I had never seen before. And we were watching it from afar, not able to actually hold and hug those that we love so much. I spent a lot of time praying for strength and protection for our family members. I also prayed for my own heart to stay clean. No one knew how to walk through this situation and people made mistakes. But I truly believe that everyone was doing what they felt was right. The people of New Life Church were at the top of the priority list. Every conversation, every meeting, centered around the idea that this was God's church and these were God's people and that we have a responsibility to care for them. I know now that this resulted in hurts of other kinds which is hard too. However, I know these people personally and I know that everyone was doing their best to get through and make the best decisions they could.

We were watching all of this and at the same time struggling on our own. We had 4 very small children and were far away from family. Our finances were at an extreme low and we were literally living off credit. We moved 4 times in 18 months, unable to keep up with rent and bills. We truly loved the people at our new church (and still have many wonderful, close friends there) but were unable to fully invest ourselves because of all the turmoil. During those 18 months I felt as if Brad and I, and this large yet tiny family we had, were on an island, surrounded by beautiful water and beaches but unable to enjoy any of it because we were starving. Starving for stability and direction.

When I look back on it now, it seems more like we were wrapped tightly, like a baby swaddled in a blanket or a caterpillar in a cocoon. Even though we struggled and wanted out, God was protecting us and strengthening us. Through all the hardship, He really had us in the palm of His hand the whole time.

On December 9th, 2007, we were just returning home after a full morning at church when Brad received a phone call. Had we seen the news? Did we know what was happening at home?

We sat on our couch in silence as we turned on the live broadcast from New Life, our home church, showing emergency vehicles, news crews and SWAT teams. A man had entered the campus and shot several people in a violent rage.

I felt the blood drain from my face as I reached for Brad, who was already on the phone trying to reach family. Where were his brothers and their families? Were they safe? Why was this happening? Hadn't our church been through enough?

That night, we talked to Brad's brother who recounted all of the details. The stunning news that there was a shooter, the moments of fear as he tried desperately to find his son, the story of his other brother hiding in a dark attic with his wife, 2 small children and friends...it was horrifying.

When Brad hung up the phone, he verbalized what we both already knew: it was time to go home.

He had a conversation with our pastor just a few weeks before, processing our situation. The inability to settle down, our house still unsold. We were now expecting our 5th child and were looking at another move as the family we were renting from wanted their house back. And most of all, our pastor explained this "rose colored glasses" phenomenon. The fact that we were even considering moving back to New Life had to be a miracle...most people knew New Life was on her last leg. This shooting would be the end of that church as we knew it.

But somehow we still loved this church. This body of believers that is so STRONG. So resilient. We knew these people and we knew that they would get back up and move on. We talked it over with our pastor and he agreed. It was time to go home.

Now here we are. We've been back at New Life for almost 5 years. We've stabilized our finances and our little family is growing. We love this church. New Lifers are strong and prayerful and worshipful and reliant on the only One who gives us strength. New Lifers know that our confidence doesn't come from any man. It comes from a personal, real relationship with this God who has held us through it all.

He has never been absent, even for a moment. Here's a song that Brad wrote, reflecting on the past few years...


This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.

1 comment:

  1. Many memories, some so hard it takes my breath away, some precious for the reasons you stated. God is close, He is always Faithful. He wakes me in the morning with new eyes and a new strength I did not have the day before. He brings Peace in the midst of life's chaos. I am thankful. Thank you for letting me go on this journey with you. Keep writing your story. As always, Tina


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