Monday, July 21, 2008

Andrew Widman (1978-2008)

This morning, I woke up with a shock from news about a former seminarian. A former missionary to Thailand, and a graduate of Gordon-Conwell, he felt a call to become a police officer and was completed his police academy training in September 2007. At a tender age of 30, he was killed in the line of duty as a police officer in Fort Myers, FL. He was not fighting a military war. He was not entering into to any gangland neighbourhood. He was simply trying to break up a domestic violence in the community that he was serving in. In the ensuing mayhem, he was suddenly shot in the face, without any time to defend himself. Andrew Widman leaves behind a wife and three young children (4 years, 20 months and a 5 month old infant). Cruel is an understatement. Gut wrenching. One word best describes my reaction: Devastated.

How can anyone justify such a killing? Just yesterday, I was teaching my kids that ‘anger’ is one letter away from ’danger.’ Kids do need to learn how to deal with their anger. Isn’t it true that anger is a behaviour that can become destructive if not dealt with appropriately? Rod Wilson and Glen Taylor describes anger as “an experience that occurs when a goal, value, or expectation that we have chosen has been blocked, or when our sense of self-worth is threatened.” Anger is a natural human emotion. Jesus has been angry before, but it was controlled anger. If our sense of self-worth is secure in God, we will not be easily shaken. The Psalmist cries out to God for mercy, knowing that God is the source of all comfort. When fallen into the deepest valley, the God of the highest mountain is able to lift him up. When drowning in the deepest waters, the God of the widest horizon is able to scoop up any sinking person. When trapped in the tiniest of crevices, the God of the universe is able to detect and sense the smallest squeak, the tiniest murmur and the minutest emotional movement. God is able to draw unto him every struggling person, attracting them to him like iron filings to magnet. God as a loving father constantly listens out to the cries of his people. He is close to the hearts of the Widmans. God, in Christ, alone is able to right all wrongs, cleanse all from sins, and deliver people from evil. Until that time arrives, we can only wait upon his comfort. We pray with all earnestness that God will be gentle upon the souls of the Widman family, to hear them out, to seek their attention, just as he seeks to give them the attention they needed.

Like most mourning, it takes a long time for healing to take place. I have previously described Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s advice after a dear friend’s funeral service. I reproduce the stages of mourning here:
  1. Shock stage: Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
  2. Denial stage: Trying to avoid the inevitable.
  3. Anger stage: Frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
  4. Bargaining stage: Seeking in vain for a way out.
  5. Depression stage: Final realization of the inevitable.
  6. Testing stage: Seeking realistic solutions.
  7. Acceptance stage: Finally finding the way forward.

Meditation on Ps 130:1-6
"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
To my cry for mercy.
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O LORD, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
therefore you are feared."
(Ps 130:1-4)
This psalm is a cry for the Lord to listen and to show mercy. The psalmist knows in his deepest sorrow that the safest comfort comes only from the Lord. There is no other better source of consolation. There is both a desire to be encouraged, and also an awareness of personal sins and weaknesses. For one to be able to struggle from within, to seek help from above, and realize that one still needs to be forgiven is indeed a quality of a spiritual person. In it lies the secret of inner healing. So often when one experience bad times or suffering, there is a tendency to blame external factors and forgetting the inner aspects.
"I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the LORD
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning."
(Ps 130:5-6)
Isn't that a wonderful way to start our mourning or plea for help? It is an exercise of patience, anchored on God's Word? 'My soul waits' indicates the posture of the whole person. It includes heart, mind and will. It causes the physical action and the inner emotion to stay in sync. Neither will go prematurely before the other. Both waits for God's inner prompting and outer guidance. Verse 6 is unique. I want to make 3 observations of this verse. Firstly, the words 'more than watchmen wait for the morning' is repeated. Having a statement repeated is an important point in Hebrew literature. It shows the seriousness of the whole matter. A double emphasis coincides with the level of deep mourning and sorrow. Secondly, the Hebrew word for 'watchmen' is a verb. This teaches us that becoming a watchmen is a disposition to look out intently in hope. It is not a title or a mere job. Thirdly, there is a strong reference to hope. Morning will come, and one waits intently and expectantly for the coming of dawn. What a picture of hope! What a wonderful way to expect the coming of the LORD. This attitude of hope is so necessary in times of tragedy, struggle and suffering. May the LORD bring the Widman family close to him during this time of grief.
More information below.

  • Fox 4 news has it covered here.
  • The statement from the Widman family can be read here.
  • There are some efforts to raise $100k for the family.
  • Fort Myers Police Department Memorial Page.

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