It was very hard to be so far from home and not being able to know if I knew someone who was there, who may have been killed, or exactly the complete severity of the situation. I was even cut off from communication because the cell phone signal was so weak that we couldn't even send a text message. The news outlets were being extremely careful about what they were saying. Not much had been confirmed yet.
I was not able to fully grasp the situation until we got home around 10:00AM Mountain the day after. Normally my imagination of things is worse than reality, but in this case, the opposite was true.
Today it is more than a month after the tragedy, and I'm driving north to a town called Thornton to meet with a man who was in theater 8 when the shooting began.
His name is Darrel Wilmoth, and he is the Pastor of Front Range Calvary. Darrel is the father of four and a Colorado native.
As I pulled into the Starbucks where we agreed to meet, I found the place to be very popular. I arrived around 9:15AM in hopes of finding a seat and preparing myself for the questions I'd be asking. I found this to be a challenge.
When he arrived we smiled, shook hands, and sat down with our respective drinks. “I'm going to turn to Philippians, Chapter 4,” Darrel said. “I didn't think about this before, I should have probably had you listen to it but, after the shooting - that was on Friday morning basically, at 12:30 - I taught Sunday morning, so if you really want to hear my heart in it, listen to that message which is on this passage."
I was somewhat amazed that after having gone through what he and so many others had experienced, he was still able to teach that morning, only one full day later.
“That's going to help you,” he continued, “because of this passage here. This is what it says.”
We then read.
It was a passage of scripture that is well known to me. Having a variety of mental disorders, this passage has helped me through them all. It is Philippians 4:6-8, and it reads, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
“Paul's telling them to meditate on good things and pure things and noble things,” Darrel explained. “The reason why is, it's interesting, the things we want to remember we don't and the things we don't want to remember we do, and very vividly.”
“It's peace that surpasses all understanding,” Darrel continued. “It doesn't mean we'll have a peace with understanding.”
“It's like we don't need to understand,” I said.
“How could you ever want to understand why someone could do what he did?” he asked.
I did not have an answer to that.
We then discussed forgiveness.
“Can forgiveness exist even to someone that didn't ask for it?,” he asked. “Sure, absolutely because it's a two part transaction. You can forgive, it's just the other person maybe didn't ask or didn't receive it, they don't fully get and don't have this same peace that you do.”
“I can even ask for forgiveness,” he continued. “I can go to you and I can ask for forgiveness and you can not give it to me, but I'm done, I'm free. I asked for forgiveness, I'm truly repentant, I'm sorry, and then if that person doesn't receive it, then they have the bitterness.
Concerning the inability to forgive, Darrel simply nodded to the passage and said, “You're not going to be able to have this.”
Going into this conversation I had so many questions about the event itself, but we focused more on what had happened in the days and weeks that followed. In a sense it was more fitting, as Darrel had pointed out on a notepad something that he had written, a note stating that what is important is the response.
That response is an inspiration to all who must overcome tragedy, that the peace that surpasses our understanding of any event, through forgiveness, meditation on things that are good, and complete reliance upon divine providence to get us through, will cause us to rise above it.
“It's a truth,” Darrel said, “and it's a promise.”