Two nights ago I awoke to four gunshots right outside my window, followed by three more. It was so close my instincts told me to drop to the floor even though the neighboring building is only a foot from my window and there’s no way a bullet could make its way into my room. I lay there in the dark, my heart beating hard wondering what to do. I feared not so much the actual gun but more the idea that outside there was somebody trying to take another person’s life. My mind drifted to our neighbors and the kids that lived next door, wondering if they too had heard the gunshots.
Earlier in the week we had a six-car chase down the street, young men chasing other young men from another gang. A couple of the cars had crashed into each other right outside of my apartment, spun around and continued flying through the streets. I had stood with my neighbors, listening to them talk through what they had seen and heard – a therapy of some sort as the same story was told over and over to each other and we shared in the pain of those situations being a part of our beautiful neighborhood.
Little Miguel, a seven-year-old boy, stood next to his mother, Maria, as she told me what they had seen. Miguel looked very grown up as he stood with us and his uncles, watching the street and listening to everything going on around him. I asked Miguel how he was doing and he shrugged his shoulders and nodded. You see Miguel had witnessed his father murdered less than a year earlier. Since that incident Miguel no longer was a little boy, he had lost his father and at the same time became the man of the house. Miguel walks with his mom everywhere because he feels the need to protect her, when she leaves to run an errand he asks her how long she’ll be gone and says, “please be careful mama.” Witnessing a car chase didn’t seem hold much weight in his mind. As I lay awake in my bed I wondered if Miguel had heard the gunshots.
In the trauma and the darkness it is easy to start questioning. To wonder where God is in this and if He cares, why does this happen? God tells Moses in Exodus 33, “When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back.” (Exodus 33:22-33) Perhaps the same holds true for us. Perhaps when things are at their darkest and scariest, when things don’t make sense, when our world pitches and feels as if it’s giving way and we’re falling, in reality it is in the dark God is passing by. Lives shake and tremor not because God is absent but because He is so very close. As He works, moving in the darkness and the tremors of life, we are in fact standing on holy ground. (One Thousand Gifts)