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Column: Finding unity through tragedy

Alumna Mary Heirholzer, ’12, attends Gordon College and offers insight into the recent tragedies surrounding her college and city, including the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon, April 15.

One victim of the Newtown shooting was the child of a Gordon College graduate on that tragic day, Dec. 14. A special guest and chapel speaker was taken by a heart attack just days after visiting Gordon, Feb. 9. Next was a beloved professor who passed after a heart attack, Feb. 27.

In early March, we received an email that the only daughter of another professor had died. The early morning before Easter, a fellow freshman was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Last week, a floormate’s father unexpectedly passed away.

Just yesterday, on a beautiful sunny day in Wenham, MA, I stop by my boyfriend?s window after class to say hi, but instead receive the news: “Two bombs just went off at the Boston marathon.”

The Gordon College community has become uncomfortably familiar with tragedy lately. Unfortunately, Fresno Christian has experienced some of the same.

It seems like too big of a topic for me to even address. What words of significance do I, a college freshman, have to offer? It?s all been said on every spectrum: the philosophy of it, the theology of it, the advice of it, the sympathy of it, the speculation of it. I don?t want to repeat things you have read a million times.

Something that has stuck out to me is that there is nothing quite as beautiful as a body of people coming together in prayer regardless of background. To be sure, I have seen a few too many vigils lately ? I wish these horrors weren?t the occasions to observe community ? but we can be sure that God?s name alone, Emmanuel, rings true: God with us.

Relevant Magazine published a brilliant article regarding the Newton shooting. The writer emphasized that Christ?s coming to earth was so that he could understand our suffering. That way, in inevitable tragedy, he would not be a distant God spectating from the clouds above, but rather weeping in understanding pain alongside us.

To call God distant is to reduce his power. You cannot remove God from anything: not a shooting, not a bombing, not a car crash, not a tough day at school or even a good day! The Spirit dwells among us. God has promised to make all things new. We do not need to come to him washed off with holy water; he will take us as we are, as sinners. The Lord is alive transforming and comforting.

In light of how big life and death really are, isn?t it a waste of time to care about our little complaints in life? Put aside differences and get the speck out of your own eye. Are you bothered that your neighbor has a different sexual orientation, or a different political party, or different beliefs on how baptism works?

It?s beautiful how people come together in wake of a tragedy… But why don?t we do that every other day? Why is loving neighbors as yourself only relevant when we are united in sadness?

So that girl in your class seems stuck up. Are you going to deny giving the opportunity to love a neighbor based on assumptions? What if you walk past her one day and grumble in your head, but then find out the next day that she has passed away? Don?t pass up the chance to love your neighbor.

There are many ways to do this, too ? you, as a free American citizen ? have power. I?m going to take a wild guess that none of you readers are physically persecuted for your faith on a daily basis. Do not let that power go to waste. There are people in this world whose Christian struggle is to stay alive. Let your struggle be the pursuit of furthering the Kingdom of God.

It has been a sobering time to be aware of world events lately, to be sure. But do not allow it to become an immobilizing fear. Rather, let it be incentive to do something worthwhile with the time at hand.

There will always be evil lurking in this world, but Christ has already overcome death. There is also an abundance of good dwelling in us, Christ?s body on earth.

Follow The Feather via Twitter: @thefeather.

For more opinions, read the April 10 article, Senior experiences Mennonite culture, cuisine.

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