The atrocity of the shootings in Aurora, Colarado, USA have impacted many.
Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church is located adjacent to Aurora.
Brad Strait writes from a pastor’s perspective about one of the victims, Petra Anderson, and her story of survival despite a bullet which entered her head at the nose, travelled through her brain, stopping at the back of her skull.
As Petra sleeps, [the surgeon] retells the story of the surgery, and we ask questions. The doctor reads the perfect script, as if he is on Hallmark Hall of Fame. He fills us in on the miracle. Honestly, he doesn’t call it that, he just uses words like “happily” and “wonderfully” and “in a very fortunate way” and “luckily” and “we were really surprised by that.” Kim and I know a miracle when we see it.
It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas. The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small “defect” in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear. Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.
But in Petra’s case, the shotgun buck shot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself. Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed. The brain is destroyed. Evil wins a round.
As he shares, the doctor seems taken aback. It is an odd thing to have a surgeon show a bit of wonder. Professionally, these guys own the universe, it seems, and take everything in stride. He is obviously gifted as a surgeon, and is kind in his manner. “It couldn’t have gone better. If it were my daughter,” he says quietly, glancing around to see if any of his colleagues might be watching him, “I’d be ecstatic. I’d be dancing a jig.” He smiles. I can’t keep my smile back, or the tears of joy. In Christianity we call it prevenient grace: God working ahead of time for a particular event in the future. It’s just like the God I follow to plan the route of a bullet through a brain long before Batman ever rises. Twenty-two years before.
To neglect this and just do worship as usual would be an affront to humanity. We could not worship the same. Even more, yesterday became an opportunity to train people for heaven, to shape our desires to be more in line with the goals of the kingdom of God, to prepare people for death, and to give God-honoring vocabulary to suffering. It became an opportunity to proclaim the gospel of the cross–the place where lamentation and hope collide in marvelous mess. It became an opportunity to deal with the perennial problem of evil, not with logical and philosophical arguments (which have their place), but on the existential ground level of pain and praise.