On April 22, 2018, James Shaw Jr. was sitting with a friend at a Waffle House counter near Nashville, Tennessee, when a gunman wearing only a green jacket opened fire.
Shaw bolted from his seat and slid along the ground as he looked for the gunman. When the shooter paused to reload, Shaw rushed at him.
“I acted in a blink of a second,” Shaw said. “When he reloaded his clip, that felt like 30 minutes. I looked at him, and he wasn’t looking at me. He just had the barrel down. It was like, ‘Do it now. Go now.’ I just took off.”
He told the New York Times, “I was just trying to live. . . . I just wanted to live, and he was, like, astonished, that I wanted to live.”
They fought over the weapon for what felt like a minute, Shaw said, until he was able to wrest the rifle away from the shooter and throw it behind the counter. That’s when the gunman fled.
It wasn’t until Shaw left and got in his truck that he noticed blood dripping from his arm and realized a bullet had grazed him. Doctors later treated his hand for burns from the still hot barrel of the rifle he’d grabbed.
Four innocent lives were lost in that Sunday-morning attack, and four other people were wounded. Law enforcement officials and customers said Mr. Shaw, a twenty-nine-year-old electrician, prevented even greater bloodshed. But James Shaw found the outpouring of gratitude and respect uncomfortable. His response to being called a hero?
“I’d rather you regard me as James, you know, just a regular person,” he said. “Because I feel like everybody can do pretty much what I did.”
Shaw insists the shooting played out too quickly for him to be a hero. “I know I saved other people. I have a 4-year-old daughter: I didn’t even think about her. In the midst of it, I was just trying to save myself.”1
Like James Shaw, all of us want to live. The drive to survive is our most powerful impulse, hardwired into every fiber of our being. So imagine having the power to avert your own death, and then choosing not to.
David Jeremiah, Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018).
I have just completed a 10 Week Bible Study Lesson Series on David Jeremiah’s book Overcomer. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book.