Six years ago this weekend I spent my first night as a resident of Duncan, Oklahoma. It has been an amazing season of my life and I am grateful beyond measure for the blessing of living here. It’s not perfect. It’s hot and it’s dry and it has issues. I suppose it’s like the rest of the world in that regard.
In recent days, we have seen incredibly violent and senseless crimes occur in our fair city – perpetrated by young men from our town and disturbing beyond description. The world is hearing of our home merely in connection with these heinous acts and, it would seem, find it impossible to believe that these are isolated incidents. They paint us with the same brush as those who have done these things. I get that. I understand it. However, I do not agree.
These young men have been part of a student body at Duncan High School that raised over $20,000 last year in order to enable the purchase of a van with a lift for a classmate who was wheelchair-bound. These young men live in a community where a large number of the church youth groups in town gather one weekend every year for a friendly tournament of “ultimate cow-tongue” (which is every bit as absurd and hilarious as it sounds). These young men have been a part of a town where people pull over as a funeral procession passes and stand and remove their hats when the national anthem is played. These young men are from a place where pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is virtually a community hobby. These young men are from a town where a casual glance at the yellow pages shows over 70 churches in a town of approximately 23,000 folks.
The real issue is that these young men, just like all of us, are the direct result of a broken world. They are broken just like I am. My brokenness manifests itself in other, less formidable ways, but it’s the same brokenness. And it’s not just here in Duncan, Oklahoma. It’s everywhere. That’s why God sent His Son to die in our place. He loved us to much to leave us broken and hopeless in a world that is decaying before our eyes.
This morning I dropped two of my sons off at Duncan High School where the campus is under heightened security due to threats that have surfaced toward the school. I realize that many parents very well may have chosen to keep their students out of school today. I respect that decision, but let me explain mine.
Terrorism is, by definition, the manipulation or coercion of a person or people by means of fear. It’s not the acts that are the objective. It is, rather, the fear that is produced by actions and the threats thereof that is the true intent of terrorism. There is a natural fear that is produced when a violent tragedy strikes so very close to home. It is truly an act of terrorism to play upon that fear to wreak havoc upon a community by manipulating and escalating that fear with threats.
Today, I took my boys to school because I refuse to be manipulated by fear. I know that there is a danger today, though I believe it is less than yesterday due to the faithful diligence of the school administration and the Duncan Police Department. I have confidence that they are looking out for my kids’ safety. But I have confidence in a much higher and stronger hand than theirs.
In our family devotion time this morning, we looked at Psalm 91 and focused upon these words:
I will say to The Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”…He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. (Psalm 91:3-4, 6)
I don’t like what has gone on in our home town. I wish it had not happened. That, however, is not mine to decide. Mine is to choose and lead my family in choosing how we will respond. As for me and my house, we refuse to give in to terror.
In the scene linked below from The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf gives young Frodo a great grain of wisdom that I think we must embrace today.
So, what will you decide?