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We Heal Together
God’s Gift of One Another
I really cannot put into words how proud I am of how Pepperdine has ministered to each other through what has been, perhaps, the saddest moment in its history. Pepperdine is a village, even a family, and to lose even one student is not only sad, but felt profoundly. We know each other well. Our campus is intimate. It’s build that way architecturally, residentially, and educationally. It’s what makes Pepperdine so incredible—more than a university. However, it is also why this hurts as much as it does. The gift of closeness brings with it the grief of departing. After spending nearly three decades in full-time vocational ministry, I would put the sheer weight of this tragedy’s grief near the top of my own experience. Nevertheless, God has once again proven Himself faithful throughout as Listener and Comforter.
Pepperdine’s campus newspaper, The Graphic, has put together an incredibly meaningful edition in honor of the four Pepperdine University students: Asha Weir, Deslyn Williams, Peyton Stewart, Niamh Rolston—all Seniors, who had their lives taken as pedestrians along Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu by a speeding driver who lost control of his car. There are many wonderful contributions from the Pepperdine family in this issue. Mine is printed below. It sketches how God comforts us through the community of faith. We truly are among God’s greatest gifts to each other.
WE HEAL TOGETHER
After the on-campus memorial service for Deslyn, Peyton, Asha and Niamh, I went home.
Not the home where I receive my mail and sleep at night. There was another home calling me. Some call it, “church.” That evening, I called it home.
I didn’t go out of obligation or fear. I went because I needed to. My soul needed it —my weary, worn-out soul. Of course, there was a part of me that wanted to go to my physical home, put on some sweatpants, turn on the fireplace and stare into the abyss. But, the part of me that won out wanted to be with my sisters and brothers. I wanted to cling to God with others. I wanted to hold to His unchanging hand with others because healing happens best together.
I arrived midway through the service at Waves Church in Stauffer Chapel. I got a glance or two indicating surprise I was there, but as I looked around, I saw many others dressed in black who had come straight from the memorial. It seems I wasn’t alone. We know, don’t we, that in such moments, it isn’t good that we should be alone.
Nothing all that flashy happened. Like Christians have done for two thousand years: We sang. We prayed. We heard a sermon. We shared Communion. We shared a meal. We didn’t do anything we don’t do every week. Yet, the beauty of tradition is its “sameness.” We do the same things every week, knowing that every week isn’t the same. That night, I encountered both the Comforter (God’s Spirit), and the Comforted (Church). We need both in tragedy, and God provides for us.
The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.”
— 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NLT
I love these verses. They are so honest and so true. They grant the existence of suffering and its intensity, but they also offer a profound word of hope: God hasn’t left us to suffer permanently by ourselves. We heal together. God comforts us so we can comfort others, and He comforts others so they can comfort us. More simply put: God has comforted us so we can comfort one another.
We are among God’s greatest gifts to each other. Many of us have rediscovered this truth in our conversations, hugs, prayers and acts of grace. We’ve been there for one another and have thus offered the comfort God has provided us to our broken-hearted friends. We are one way God comforts the grieving. This is God’s way. Neither grief nor comfort is an, “I/me,” thing. It’s a, “We/Us” thing.
God’s whole creation was declared good except that man should be alone (Gen. 2:18). We aren’t built to be by ourselves. So, just as we were broken by this tragedy together, we must heal together — and we will.
Until then: let’s not isolate ourselves or ignore those who isolate themselves. Reach out gently. Be extra gracious. Be extra inclusive, extra kind, extra good, extra available, extra prayerful. That is how we get through this. By God’s grace, loving one another — and we will heal together.
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