2 years ago my friend got shot.

He didn’t make it. 

I’m not here to deal with the details but rather things I’ve learned in the process of moving forward..

7 Reflections After My Friend Got Shot  

This is my way of remembering him, coming to terms with what happened and hopefully bringing about some positive change so that he didn’t die in vain.

Fair warning: this is quite a raw post. I don’t claim to be right in all of my emotions or reflections, but they are true to me. 

1. People can be removed from your life in an instant.

I’ll never forget the moment I found out David was dead.

It had been weeks since I heard from him, I’d sent him a few funny photos that he usually would have hit me back about straight away.

He wasn’t coming to church, he didn’t show up to our regular meetups and I started to get worried.

There were no answers to the phone calls and no replies to the texts.

A week or so passed and he had completely gone off the grid. No social media posts, no nothing.

I expressed my concern to a good friend of mine – Brett – and we did the only thing we thought we could do: we turned to Google.

 

“When I read the first news article I knew it was him right away.”

I was completely numb. We didn’t react, instead just sat there looking at the screen.

We scrambled through a couple of other articles searching for any loophole to prove that it wasn’t David.

But it was.

He was gone in an instant and he wasn’t coming back.

People are precious. We have no idea when we might lose them. It’s a shame we don’t live more with this in mind. It took until my friend got shot to really put this into perspective. 

2. Revenge is a more powerful emotion than you can imagine.

After a while of sitting around and mumbling a few words in disbelief I had to get out of the apartment, so I said goodbye to Brett and headed out.

When I was walking to the 1 train it hit me. The pain and emotion burst through the numbness and I didn’t do anything to stop it.

I broke down, bitterly sobbing like I never had before.

“I had lost people before, lost loved ones to sickness and suicide but not like this.”

These tears were different, they were violent, vengeful tears.

Not prepared to face the people on the subway I decided to take the walk home instead.

A heavy rainstorm had just started in Washington Heights and I was glad because it meant that I had a rare thing in NYC: a moment to myself.

My pain quickly turned to rage, a revenging, scheming rage that I would seek retribution.

I don’t consider myself to be a violent person or one to take revenge, but what surprised me most about that night was how quickly and seamlessly the urge to take revenge fell upon me.

For the first time in my life, I wanted to kill and that frightened me.

3. People are not the enemy.

I cried out to the sky in disbelief. I asked how this could and happen but more importantly why.

The humid rain drenched me and I walked in complete abandonment.

Then I heard a voice, one that I had heard many times before in my life, the same voice I had heard myself before a suicide attempt many years before.

It was the voice I know to be the voice of God and he spoke gently to me:

“People are not the enemy Matthew. You know that.”

As a Christian, I believe in God and I also believe in an enemy – an adversary (commonly known as the devil or satan.)

Here’s what the bible says:

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

I realised in that moment the men who killed David weren’t my enemy, but rather the forces that acted through them, the evil they represent and the ideals that are carried out through them.

Please note: this does not undermine justice or the fact that people need to pay the consequences for their actions.

4. There is a place for vengeance.

After this experience, I do believe that vengeance is a natural desire and I’ll even go as far as saying that vengeance is a good thing.

Vengeance promotes us to take action, to find solutions and to commit to seeking out change. The problem is that we usually go about vengeance in the wrong way.

I truly believe that going and killing those men would not only have been a waste of time but by doing so I would have been just as guilty of allowing evil to act through me.

It wouldn’t lead to any change, it wouldn’t bring him back and it certainly wouldn’t prevent more people from dying like David did.

When I was suicidal God spoke to me saying: “Don’t do it Matthew, because I have a plan for your life.”
After I lost my friend Alan to suicide God told me “I’m going to use you to help people like Alan.”
When David died he showed me “you can avenge David by fighting against the evil in this world.”

“In all of these situations, I have been motivated to make my world, the world that I live in less like hell and more like heaven.”

That’s what real payback looks like.

5. There are powerful weapons to fight back.

“Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13

These are the weapons I believe God intends us to use to fight back against the evil of this world and establish his kingdom (pieces of heaven) here on earth.

Faith: Believing in something that can’t yet be seen – believing that change is possible.
Hope: Refusing to give up until you see that change happen.
Love: Doing whatever it takes to see people move from where they to where God dreams for them to be.

This often happens in the small, day to day decisions and interactions.

If you think these are weak or wishy-washy then I would question if you have ever truly experienced them.

6. Violence should always be a last resort.

Pulling that trigger is a decision that can never be taken back or reversed.

Situations can get heated, tense and action must be taken – but haste makes mistakes and hindsight often reveal many other alternatives to one decision that can never be undone or made right.

7. Hurt people, hurt people.

I lost some friends during this process.

I was in a painful, vulnerable state and there was no right way for people to address this issue.

The funeral was a mess and was swarmed by reporters, journalists and others who pretended to care about David.

I allowed my feelings to hurt, divide and fracture relationships.

I saw injustice everywhere and I didn’t give people the grace that they needed.

The reality was they were hurting and just trying to process it in their own way and do what they felt was right.

Hurt people, hurt people. Never underestimate or forget that.

Hope remains.

I do believe that I will see David again some day. He was a believer and in my eyes, that means we will get to hang out once again only next time, not in this broken, flawed world, but in heaven.

Until then Dave I will miss eating fish and chips, crashing random events and trailing all over NYC with you. 

I promise that I will never forget you, but most of all:

I promise that you didn’t die in vain.

More From Matthew Thompson

If you have 30 mins and are interested you can listen/watch the sermon – The Way Of Hope – I preached that week. Granted I was worn out and beaten up at the time, but I hope it will be helpful/encouraging to some of you.

This post is much heavier than my usual content, but writing what is honest and true is why I started writing in the first place.

If you are interested in following my work you can read some other articles below or become a part of my free monthly newsletter.

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Further reading:
– 7 Lessons About Depression From A Suicidal Prophet
– Whatever You Do: Be True

Thanks very much for reading

All the best,

– Matthew Thompson