My 9-year-old son, Jonathon, bounced into our living room on thin brown legs that looked almost too skinny to hold up his tall 4′ 10″ frame.
He looked directly at me through his glasses and out of nowhere he said, “Dad, can we ever go back to the movies again?”
It is a question that caught me totally off-guard, even though I have been praying about and talking about this issue non-stop for the last week.
Nevertheless, the question still shocks me.
As a father, I recognized that the question had finally come.
For days I have been talking to people in my Denver community who are collectively coping with a devastation that has gripped our city in an invisible choke-hold of grief.
People who are living each day in the aftermath of the Century Theatre 16 mass-shooting during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, which occurred in an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre that is less than a five-minute drive from my home.
I have been preaching to my congregation about how they can overcome the initial shock of the tragedy and how to begin to walk through the anger that follows the shock.
We have been dealing with an unrequited anger over the senseless loss of 12 innocent people, and the 58 other injured people, some whose lives are still in peril.
The anger over an unspeakable damage done to ordinary people just going to the movies to see a children’s comic book played out on the silver screen
This anger comes from knowing that it could have been your child, your spouse or you in that theatre when the gunman entered.
We have been learning how to release that anger and we have been seeking to replace the emotion of anger with positive action, by helping our neighbors, holding our loved ones a little tighter and seeking peace in our prayer.
My church’s professional grief counselors have been helping people of all ages talk out their pain and anger and my church’s pastors have been helping people pray through their frustration and fears. But now the question has come home.
Will we ever be normal again?
Will we be able to have our monthly movie nights ever again?
Will my son and I be able to sit in a dark theater with a bunch of total strangers and relax as we split a massive box of heavily buttered popcorn and an enormous drink, with two straws, and escape together into some CGI landscape without looking for a maniac to kick in the exit door, guns blazing?
Now it is my own son who looks up at me, with eyes that look just like mine, and he ask this question.
To him, I am not Pastor Chris Hill, the senior pastor of the Potter’s House of Denver.
To him, I am just “Dad.”
So, I kneeled down and snatched him up in my arms and I said to him, “You don’t need to worry about nothing son because I will be with you – wherever you go!”
I held him real tight and I promised him that fear wasn’t going to stop us.
I told him that one day things were going to get back to normal.
But deep inside, I wondered if I was making an affirmative statement of fact from a father to his 9-year-old son.
Or was I voicing yet another prayer as a son to my Heavenly Father?
Perhaps it was a little bit of both.
Pastor Chris Hill is the senior pastor at The Potter’s House of Denver.