“Okay, everyone,” says Lauren, the tour guide. “This is the last part of the tour.”
Finally, I thought, I’m not sure how much more I could take without food. We just have to visit the Bio-Science and Engineering buildings and then Moe’s, here I come!
We were rounding the corner to the University of South Florida’s Bio-Science Building when sirens erupted campus-wide. The warning on the emergency notification system was a little hard to understand that hot Friday afternoon. All I heard was something like “– on campus, get inside. Police on the scene.”
Unsure of what to make of the situation, our 20-plus tour group turned to our guide for an explanation. There was another group slightly ahead of us. They too had the same look of confusion as our group. It didn’t make sense to walk the now 40-something group back to the main office, so the two tour guides decided that we were safest locked inside a small classroom in the Bio-Science building.
Once locked inside, Lauren makes a phone call to her boss who tells her what he thinks is going on. She closes her cell phone and announces that the police believe there’s a gunman on campus.
As soon as the words leave her lips panic spreads like a poisonous gas around the room. We later find out that the perpetrator was supposedly around the Bio-Science and Engineering building, according to news reports (Thank you iPhones and Blackberrys). A teenage girl started crying, while questions flew like darts from frustrated parents.
Isn’t that where we are?
Can’t they send someone to get us?
How long do we have to stay in this room?
I sat quietly with my family, my head filled with a million thoughts.
What’s going on Lord? Should I say something? I should say something. Do we pray right now? No, maybe I’ll wait. I don’t think this is going to take forever. I’m not panicking…
It’s amazing what happens when fear takes over. It’s harder to think clearly, harder to see God. Easier to get anxious, worried, scared, depressed…While I was reflecting on the situation the next day, I realized that fear was the root cause of all of those emotions. Being afraid in a situation where death seems eminent is a natural human reaction. But I let fear get in the driver’s seat and ended up going down an unfamiliar path.
I wanted to say something so badly to bring some kind of hope to the other members of our tour group, but I didn’t because I was afraid. I was unsure of myself, I didn’t feel capable of communicating the Gospel and my ultimate excuse, I didn’t think it was necessary.
All of those thoughts were lies. Lies that I chose to believe because I knew in the back of my head that I was definitely more than capable of saying something. Talking comes naturally to me so I wasn’t sure why my tongue chose that moment to lock up on me.
After taking a couple of days to think about it, I realized that the only thing that was holding me back was being embarrassed. I was afraid of them rejecting my message and I chose to rest in that fear and tune out the Spirit. I forgot that the Gospel message isn’t my message, it’s God’s message. In rejecting me, they were really rejecting God. But my pride was too much in the way for me to see that at the time.
That’s so dangerous.
I also kept thinking about how hardened and apathetic the world has become to Christianity and Evangelism. As I looked around the room, I thought, these people don’t care about God, they don’t want to hear the truth. They want their own truth and they won’t care about what I have to say.
Yet Jesus still left the ninety-nine to go after the one (Luke 15:1-7). Maybe Jesus wanted me to say something, maybe He didn’t. But time on this Earth is moving without us. We should never waste an opportunity to reach out to people. There is still someone who needs to know that there is a thing called sin that someone named Jesus sacrificed His life to free us from (John 3:16).
But, remember, we can’t further the message on our own. The Spirit has to be in the driver’s seat. The world can’t afford us to have any substitute drivers. Without Jesus, we’re stalled engines, unable to move forward. Christians have messed up, but there is still a remnant of Believers who know the truth.
Are you a part of that remnant?
Find encouragement in Psalm 37.
*Ultimately, there was never a gunman on the campus and apparently the police caught up with the man who made the call. He turned himself in and agreed to undergo mental evaluation under the Baker Act, according to the news reports.