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Dr. Robert Lesslie: Guideposts Loses a Beloved Author

A call to prayer for the sudden loss of life and the gun violence that affects us all.

Dr. Robert Lesslie photographed in his office in May 2015. Photo by Davis Turner for Guideposts
Credit: Davis Turner

I haven’t shot a gun since I was a kid, but my dad liked to go to the range—he was a good shot—and we had a trunkful of his guns in the house, carefully stored. Personally speaking, I never had much of a stomach for hunting. I didn’t see where I had the right to deprive another of God’s creatures of the gift of life, simply for sport.

My father shot a man once. In the middle of the night, he spotted someone trying to steal our brand-new Pontiac Bonneville from the driveway. He got a gun, shouted a warning at the man then put a round in his calf. The man’s howl woke the neighborhood. Soon the police were on the scene, lights strobing the leafy suburban darkness. The man was not badly hurt. He was, however, a bad repo man. He’d meant to repossess a car down the street and confused the addresses.

That was some years ago, obviously, and most everyone would defend my father’s actions in defending the Bonneville (I loved that car). But the shootings we hear about today, especially the mass shootings, are horrifying. They are beyond comprehension and as they seemingly grow more frequent, they get closer.

A few days ago, Dr. Robert Lesslie, his wife and two grandchildren were gunned down for no other reason than they were a target of opportunity for a tragically disturbed individual who shouldn’t have even been able to possess a gun for any fathomable reason.

Dr. Lesslie was a Guideposts author and beloved by his family and community, a man of great talent and even greater faith. That’s what I mean by these senseless shootings getting closer, gunfire that shatters a family and a community the way it shatters the silence.

Will we soon all know someone, or some family affected by gun violence, just as we know families who lost loved ones to Covid-19? The nightmare violence at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 shook Guideposts. Some of our employees had children in that school system, and one former colleague lost a daughter.

The violence is getting closer.

There are more guns than people in this country. We are the only society that contends with this level of nihilistic slaughter. The debate over gun rights is acrimonious and driven by fear on both sides—fear of violence and fear of the deprivation of a right.

What we should fear is that we are a country dangerously close to accepting this grotesque level of gun violence and just moving on. We are, I pray to God, better than that. I know we are. Like so many of our national differences, common ground is required to find a solution based in empathy and understanding—not fear. There are those who decry the overuse of the reflexive phrase “thoughts and prayers” in response to these tragedies. Thoughts and prayers are where the solution should begin, not end.

Please say a prayer for Dr. Lesslie’s family and all the people who loved him. Say one for our country, too, and all those who have been affected by gun violence.

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