The family of Robert Godwin Sr. delivered a powerful message over the last two weeks: Faith is our saving grace in our darkest moments.
In the midst of tragedy and heartbreak, family members were able to clear their heads of emotional poison and forgive the shooter who randomly killed their 74-year-old patriarch and posted his crime on social media for the world to see. The seemingly senseless murder gripped the nation and launched a nationwide manhunt that ended two days later, when the gunman took his own life, after being cornered by police.
I can’t begin to imagine what it took for Mr. Godwin’s daughter to get to the place where she could declare “The thing that I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God … how to fear God, how to love God, and how to forgive. Each one of us forgives the killer.”
What I do know is that her statement helped me to manage my emotions – and I didn’t even know Mr. Godwin.
After seeing an image of Mr. Godwin’s face (right before he was shot) on a news report, I felt sorrow, disgust, anger, confusion, frustration and heartbreak all at the same time. I was in shock and disbelief that this father and grandfather was walking down a street in Cleveland, Ohio on Easter Sunday when a seemingly unhinged gunman randomly chose him and intentionally shot him.
Easter Sunday –a day when we are reminded that we can find strength and ultimate hope in Christ, who has conquered death and can sympathize with human suffering; a day when we are reminded to entrust ourselves more fully to our faithful God, no matter what befalls us.
Perhaps it is fitting that family, friends and community members gathered on Easter Saturday to celebrate the life of Mr. Godwin. On that day, our gospel reading reminded us once again of our mission to proclaim the Good News of the Lord to all.
Members of the Godwin family – like the disciples in the scripture reading – have been bold in their testimony that the Lord is with them and that the Holy Spirit is giving them the courage, strength and wisdom to proclaim that there is a hope beyond all other hope when we are in despair and engulfed in darkness.
Like the Godwins, those of us who call ourselves Christians (disciples of Christ) should share the light that we have received with those who are living in darkness. The Godwins even shared God’s truth with the shooter by forgiving him.
My hope is that we can follow the example of the Godwins by living our lives with zeal and devotion to God through prayer, through faith, through charity, and through love. When we bring the light of Christ to others (by showing care and concern and through our just actions), we help them connect with the Risen Lord.
My prayer is that we share God’s love with those who have no one to comfort them, with those who are in need, and with those we consider our enemies and that we always remember that even Jesus forgave his condemners from the cross.
“I promise you, I could not do that if I did not know God, if I didn’t know him as my God and my Savior, I could not forgive (the shooter)”…the daughter of Robert Godwin, Sr.