On October 22, just a mere few weeks ago, I was working my shift at Starbucks about to head back in from my break, when I got a text from my sister.
“There’s been a shooting in Ottawa, at Parliament Hill,” she told me.
In a shaky quick moment, the innocence of my country’s capital was lost. The Hill that lent itself to giant yoga sessions, and fireworks on Canada Day, and magnificent light shows — one which I saw when I sat on that field in the summer a few years back — suddenly had its innocence snatched away. I was shocked and sad and scared after hearing the news. The Starbucks customers whispered updates to me across hushed tables.
The shooter killed a soldier, they said to me. A young twenty-four-year-old man from my own city.
I stepped on a plane to North Carolina the next day. I flew away from Canada as the country cried the prayer that strings together our national anthem, God keep our land glorious and free.
I think of Ottawa and Ferguson and Rwanda.
I wonder what glorious and free looks like when guns fire, and machetes hack away, and bombs explode, blood spilling down rivers and roads and Canadian war memorials.
Spilling down the wood of a cross.
I wonder what glorious and free looks like in a world that is achingly beautiful, and at the same time full of so much pain.
When the solider was shot that terrible day in Ottawa, a few people rushed over to him to try and stop the blood. One of them was a woman who knelt down beside his head whispering over and over and over again, “You are loved. You are brave. You are loved.”
The soldier died hearing the truth we all desperately need to hear.
Sometimes I get caught up in the bad. I get caught up in the fear. I can’t shake the thoughts of doubt and disappointment and I ask Jesus why we live in a world that feels scarier every year. I wonder what the world will be like in the years to come, if it will only continue to get worse.
Then I remember the woman who whispered that truth to the solider, reminding me that there is good in this world even though sometimes it can feel overshadowed by all the bad. That woman represented something revolutionary to me: good will persist.
A still small voice breathes against my cheek like a cool breeze: this life is glorious and free.
I think of Calvary, that ultimate sacrifice. I think of nails and blood and the words of Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing. I wonder how often He whispers that now.
I think of His sacrifice, where the truest freedom was extended to us, where his humble glory shone steady and firm.
Even in the painful, even in the broken, even when nothing feels glorious at all.
This life is glorious and free.
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