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My school was in lockdown: How I prayed

From the March 10, 2014 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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Brooke
Courtesy photo

There have been many moments in my life when I’ve had to rely on God for healing. But never before had I been challenged the way I was when there was a shooting at my school, Arapahoe High School in Colorado, last December.

As soon as the shooting began, my teacher quickly and calmly executed the lockdown protocol—closing the door, turning the lights off, and keeping the class quiet. Though I didn’t really comprehend what was happening at first, I was paralyzed with fear for my class as well as my friends and teachers in the other parts of the building. My teacher assured us that we were safe, and a fellow classmate held my hand in support.

All I could do was pray, and the only thing I could think of in that moment was my favorite hymn, No. 148, from the Christian Science Hymnal. It begins:

In heavenly Love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
(Anna L. Waring)

I knew that God was sheltering every one of His children from all error—and that included the shooter, who couldn’t be exempt from God’s care, either. I repeated the first verse of this hymn countless times, and soon I began to feel a sense of peace wash over me. My thought cleared enough to begin expanding my prayer, and I knew that others were praying and supporting us as well. I focused on a verse from the Bible: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (I John 4:18). Because God is divine Love, and God is all, there can be no fear, no discord, and no error. Harmony is a law of divine Science—a constant, unchanging right for every individual. By focusing on what I knew was spiritually true, I didn’t feel so scared.

I repeated the first verse of this hymn countless times, and soon I began to feel a sense of peace wash over me.

Soon, the police came and shepherded us to safe ground. As I walked through the crowd of students and faculty, the thought that came to me most strongly was a quote from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (p. 494). I saw the truth of this statement: Whether it was a hug, a phone, a jacket, or a friend, strangers were reflecting divine Love in meeting each other’s needs. Teachers came together to reassure us, and police officers surrounded us with protection.

Soon, we began to load on buses to be transferred to a location to meet our families. A church down the street offered us food, water, and shelter. The abundance of support, humility, and grace was astounding. While I waited in the church for my family, I picked up a Bible and opened it to the 91st Psalm, which includes this reassurance: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (verse 4). Though I was tempted to get caught up in the horrific material picture, I can honestly say that I was seeing a community showered with love. God was showing us His protection and love.

As I was reunited with my family, I began to fully grasp what had happened. The paralyzing fear hit me again, but this time, I found it harder to combat. My mom and brother shared many helpful quotes from the Bible and Science and Health with me, helping me to regain my composure and continue to pray. I also received many comforting messages from friends and family, which helped me know I was not alone.

First thing the next morning, I sat down to read the Christian Science Bible Lesson, which had the subject “God the Preserver of Man.” This Lesson discussed how God protects all of His ideas, and it helped to comfort me further as I prayed for my friend Claire, who had been shot in the attack. As I prayed for her and for everyone involved, I began to feel much better, less afraid, and stronger.

Over the next several days, however, Claire’s condition worsened, and she passed away in the hospital about a week after the shooting. I struggled to have faith in God, and wondered, How could God let something so horrific happen? Why didn’t He protect Claire? The second section of that same Lesson included a passage from Proverbs that said: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (3:5, 6). I knew that God was only good, and even through the doubt, I knew that error—a picture of violence and death—was not caused by Him. Over the next few days I prayed to turn my thought to God, rather than away from Him, trusting that healing would come not from fear of a hateful God, but from faith in a loving God. I was healed as I began to see that the fear I’d been feeling couldn’t separate me—or any of the other students, teachers, or parents, and that included Claire—from God’s love for even a moment.

Several months have passed since the event, and I have seen countless proofs of God’s protection since. My community has lifted its thought to pray for Claire’s family and the family of the shooter. The community is embracing our school with love, and at a recent school assembly, Claire’s father spoke of the importance of forgiveness—challenging us all to show love and compassion for each other. Through it all, I have learned that God does protect His children from any form of error, and that no one can ever be truly separated from Him. I am not a victim of a tragedy, nor are any of my friends or teachers. Instead, prayer has led us all to demonstrate greater love and care for one another and to conquer the fear that God could ever be absent from our community.

Brooke Engel is a junior at Arapahoe High School. She is actively involved in choir, lacrosse, and DiscoveryBound’s National Leadership Council (NLC).

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