I’ve taught on their campus. I have former students who have taught there. I know some of the faculty. Some of my graduate students have done their undergrad work there.
And then came the news, this past Thursday. Another school shooting. A lone gunman with a shotgun opened fire at Seattle Pacific University. Paul Lee, a 19-year-old freshman, was killed. As of this writing, another 19-year-old, Sarah Williams, was still in intensive care after five hours of surgery. A third student, 24-year-old Thomas Fowler, was treated and released.
Ironically, when the incident happened, my wife and I were on vacation in Santa Barbara, where only days before six people were killed and others injured near the University of California campus. That shooter is dead. The Seattle shooter is in custody.
And many, many more people in those communities and around the nation are grieving or in shock.
I write this with the memory of one of our yearly graduation rituals still fresh in my mind. The students who are finishing up their degrees in marriage and family therapy gather to say thank you and goodbye to one another. It’s a deeply emotional evening, as people who once were strangers and now are fast friends share their stories of transition, of struggle and growth, of deeply experienced grace.
I am proud of our students, not only as therapists, but as people, as followers of Jesus. It pains me to imagine a shooter on our campus, to imagine one of these people who have so eloquently spoken their appreciation to one another lying dead or injured.
But I am also encouraged by the fact that somehow, some way, our students are wanting to make a difference in their communities. What both the Seattle and Santa Barbara shootings share in common is the deadly mix of violence and mental illness. In hindsight, it’s easy to lament that we should have known.
What we need is more foresight.
Pray for the students, faculty, and staff of Seattle Pacific. Pray for the communities surrounding Santa Barbara. Pray for your own community.
And pray that the God of peace would raise up more peacemakers, including those who would have the courage and desire to wade into the deep waters of mental health treatment.