Ten years ago today an event occurred that changed the lives of countless families. One man chose to end the lives of others because of his sinful, selfish desires, without a thought of what it would mean for anyone else. He didn't think of what the loss of a wife and daughter would mean to her husband or parents. He didn't consider what the loss of his younger brother would mean to his father, grandparents or school and church friends. He didn't care what it would mean to the two men he convinced to help carry out his plan. He certainly didn't know that the lives of five members of a police officer's family would be affected. (If you don't know the story, look here)
That night, Marshall sat down to his computer to work on his on-line class, and I went upstairs to put my babies to bed after church. He got a phone call and said, "There's been a home invasion with a shooting. I don't know when I'll be back." I asked him if there were children involved and he told me that they thought so. As he left I prayed for him, not knowing that he was praying at the same time. It would be two weeks before we would see him again. As the work got more intense for him, we weren't even sure he would be able to spend Braden's first Christmas with us. Marshall spent months, and then years working on this case, including many days away from home. Sleeping on the floor in your office is really glamorous, right? He worked so very hard that even when he was able to be at home, he still was working. I saw his brain working all the time! As the mother of a 7-year old, a 4-year old, and a 9-month old, I did my fair share of whining and complaining. Especially when, during one particularly romantic moment, he picked up his phone to call his partner! All I could do at that point was laugh!
The LORD was so gracious and spoke to my aching heart. He gently let me know that whatever loneliness, frustration, or anger I was feeling, was NOTHING compared to what the Whitaker Family was going through. Mine was only temporary. Oh my. Thank you LORD. I wish I could say that I had been the perfect wife for Marshall during that time, but with a different perspective, I can say that I tried.
I'm sure that Bart Whitaker didn't care that what he wanted to do would affect so many people, but like Joseph said, "you meant evil (against me), but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Genesis 50:20, parenthesis mine.
He didn't realize that hundreds of people would daily petition the throne of grace on behalf of his father, AND the investigators involved. He didn't know that through the investigation, new techniques would be developed, implemented and used to educate new officers throughout the state. Who knows how many "should be kept alive" because police officers and investigators are better educated and informed and have better resources now?
The LORD used this tragedy, and the timing of Marshall's being on-call to respond, to work many things for good in our family. After an initial time of intense work, things settled down a bit. Marshall was able to coach Little League, attend church with us, and finish his degree. As a matter of fact, Marshall graduated with his degree the same week that he was able to go to south Texas to return Bart Whitaker to custody. Along with Hurricane Rita, that was a pretty eventful week for him! We were also able to see the effects of Marshall's growing spiritually. Many people Marshall came into contact with told him that they were praying for him. Our Sunday School class prayed regularly for him (and me too). He was able to share the Gospel many times. Several times Marshall called or came home and said, "Do you know what the LORD did today?" What a blessing it was, and is, to know that in one of the worst occupations in which to see GOD, Marshall was becoming more intimate with Him! My children and I are recipients of this amazing blessing!
But what Bart didn't know, GOD did know. He knew what would happen. He knew that He would work it for good. He knew that families would be changed. He knew that lives would be changed. He knew that people would be seeking answers from their pastors. He knew that people would start conversations about Him. He knew His name would be glorified in churches and homes, including ours, not because of, but as a result of this event. And even ten years later.