'Tuff love' triumphs, Georgia school tragedy averted

A Christian Science perspective. Antoinette Tuff, a school clerk in Decatur, Georgia, credits prayer in averting a gunman's attack at her school.

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On Tuesday, a gunman walked into an Atlanta-area elementary school, intent on wreaking the kind of havoc that devastated Newtown, Conn., last December. But instead of tragedy, something amazing happened. A school clerk named Antoinette Tuff reached out to the young man with love, and convinced him to lay down his weapons. He surrendered, and no one was hurt.

There’s a lot that’s remarkable about this incident. Ms. Tuff’s grace and courage under fire. The way love can reach and soften even a heart that seems hopelessly hardened. And the larger story Tuff's fearless act tells: that good has a voice that cannot be silenced.

Watching this very real proof of the power of good over evil, I couldn’t help but think of Mary Baker Eddy’s statement in her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Millions of unprejudiced minds – simple seekers for Truth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert – are waiting and watching for rest and drink. Give them a cup of cold water in Christ’s name, and never fear the consequences. What if the old dragon should send forth a new flood to drown the Christ-idea? He can neither drown your voice with its roar, nor again sink the world into the deep waters of chaos and old night” (p. 570).

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Good cannot be silenced. That’s the story Tuff told when she prayed – and then convinced the armed young man that Tuesday didn’t have to be the day that he would die. And it’s the story we can tell as we share Tuff’s story, and do something more: live it.

The heart of the young man who walked into that school yearned for one thing: love. Tuff gave it to him – without fear of the consequences. Her radical love saved not only the children in that school, but a man who must have seen, in some small way, that he could be better. That he could let love lift him out of whatever mental despair had led him through the doors of that building.

So I don’t just lift up my voice to celebrate Tuff’s love. I lift up my voice to spread it. And as I do, I find myself asking this question, both of myself, and of anyone within earshot: How would the world be different if we greeted every situation – from the mildly annoying, to the utterly terrifying – with the kind of heart full of love that Tuff did?

Told that she was a hero, Tuff responded that she gave all the glory to God. For me, this is an echo of the biblical promise in First John: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (4:16).

Sometimes, stories like Tuff’s can seem daunting. To respond with that kind of pure love may seem like something that’s far beyond our abilities. But knowing first, as Tuff did, that God Himself is Love, we find ourselves in a virtuous cycle. Loving because God loves. And knowing that God is spurring us to purer love, even as He embraces us in it.

This week’s most important news story proves that fearless, life-changing love is possible. That it’s more powerful than a gun. More powerful than a mind obsessed with evil. More powerful, even, than evil itself. Better still, it shouts in a voice that no one can silence that this love is the demand on all of us – and that living such love must have effects far beyond what we can imagine.

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