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Columbine Twenty Years Forward

“...April 20, 1999 was a life sentence for Rachel, but I don’t want it to be my life sentence. I want to live and live well.”

Twenty years, twenty years, twenty years. At times my mind just cannot wrap itself around the fact that the Columbine shooting happened twenty years ago. There are times when I feel that can’t be possible.

My thoughts start dreaming about what Rachel would be like at thirty-seven years old. I would expect her to be married, have children and writing to her heart’s content. What would her husband be like? Where would she live-close to home or on the other side of the country?

I will never have answers to those questions as Rachel never got the chance to live beyond seventeen years of age. She never graduated high school or had a wedding day. All of this would be overwhelmingly sad except that I believe Rachel fulfilled her destiny.

God gave her those seventeen years, and, in that time, Rachel made her mark on the world. She figured out what was important in life, loving God and loving others. Her values and beliefs have now traveled around the world. Her story has been told millions of times either by books, the movie “I’m Not Ashamed,” or through live presentations.

Young and old have been inspired to follow what she modeled and acted on. Many people have aspired to live life just that simply but deeply profound.

Even though the years have gone fast, there were many days that went very slow. Days of working through the pain of loss. The anger of knowing life that was now destroyed. It also created untold heartbreak of working so hard to be able to feel good and able to laugh again. Wanting desperately to be Christ-like and walk in forgiveness but enduring the struggle of knowing that would be a long and painful process.

The Lord began to deal with me about forgiveness. Not as the “next Christian thing to do,” but to truly be willing to give up my “RIGHT” to hold on to my anger. I felt entitled to be mad-entitled to walk in my pain-entitled to feel sorry for myself. As I began to deal with these attitudes and feelings, it became clear that I would not experience healing unless I gave myself permission to “let go” of things that I had a right to feel and think.

So many people think forgiveness is a PASS for the one that hurt, betrayed or wronged them. Or if you forgive, you are saying that it is okay about what happened, and it would negate the consequences of the wrong. But that is NOT the case. It is not about the perpetrator who may or may not care if you say you forgive them. Actually, forgiveness is for YOU. It is the pathway that allows God’s healing into your life. Forgiveness is the key to unlock the emotional and spiritual prison we keep ourselves locked up in.

You see, April 20, 1999 was a life sentence for Rachel, but I don’t want it to be my life sentence. I want to live and live well. I want to experience my children and grandchildren without a dark shadow hanging over my life. I want to walk in peace with myself and others. Forgiveness allows me to obtain everything God and life has to offer.

So many people have considered Rachel as almost a saint. But I want to tell you her secret because she wasn’t a saint. Rachel at the age of thirteen gave her life to the Lord Jesus Christ. When she made that decision, she was filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Christ living in her is what gave her the courage and boldness to live her faith. It gave her the power to love those who were left behind or unwanted. God’s spirit gave her the compassion that was so apparent in her treatment of others. Her love for Christ overshadowed everything she said and did. The one desire of her life was to be used by the Lord. That was the resolve and foundation she built her life around.

Maybe life has handed you a raw deal. There is a loving Father who already loves you. God gave His son Jesus on a cross, so you could live. This year the 20th anniversary and Easter collide as back to back days. Just as Jesus rose from the dead, into new life, that same opportunity is yours. You can experience God’s love by asking Him to be the Lord of your life. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins. Ask Him into your life as your Savior. It will be the one decision that sustains you when everything seems to go down the wrong path. His love for you doesn’t change when things are hard, and He has promised never to leave or forsake you. I encourage you to experience that same power Rachel experienced.

I can think of no greater celebration of a life well lived than to invite you to become acquainted with the greatest person who lived, died and rose again, Jesus Christ. I know Rachel will celebrate with you and cheer you on.

Photo by Michael Tamburello

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