Wednesday, October 26

fear and safety

warning: this is not a very up-beat post. i've been meaning to write this for about a week, and finally found the time to sit down and do it. it's not nearly as fun as talking about hiba and matthias or food or fun things we do, but this is life, so hear goes....

about two weeks ago, a student at UALR went missing. in broad daylight. she left her house at 8:45 a.m. and never made it to her 10 a.m. class. her car was found in a burger king parking lot, where students park every day. a very busy parking lot. with lots of people and businesses around. no one had seen her or knew what happened. her body was found a few days later.

it's a tragic story. there are a lot of unanswered questions and the last i heard, there are no suspects. but the thing about this story for me is that it happened in my neighborhood.

the parking lot where her car was found is a five minute walk from my house. i don't walk in that area often, but now i won't. since there are no leads or suspects, or at least none that the police are sharing with the public, even walking in my neighborhood makes me nervous. i know that patricia and i have very different lives and just because something happened to her doesn't mean it will happen to me. but it's scary. which is a very sad, conflicting feeling for me.

jason and i have never been ones to shy away from "dangerous" situations. we moved to palestine days after the 2006 war between israel and lebenon. we actually boarded the plane to fly into tel aviv the day a ceasefire was agreed upon. we lived in palestine for three and a half years, including during the time that hamas took over the gaza strip and the israeli war on gaza. our kids were born there and i had no reservations about raising them there. even though it seemed dangerous to others, we never were really afraid. yes, there were times that we were nervous. but after those isolated incidents were over, there was no fear. i never thought the israeli military would come arrest us in the middle of the night. i never thought a building that we were living in would be demolished. i never thought we would be kidnapped by hamas. i knew that if any real threat was upon us, our friends would help take care of us. so it wasn't really scary.

when we moved back to the US, we wanted to live in a place that others might not choose to live. when we bought our house, we knew it wasn't in the nicest neighborhood, but we knew it wasn't in the worst. we believed (and still do) that God was calling us to live in area that we could make a positive difference simply by living there. we want to do more than just live here, but it's a good start in how we can impact the community around us. we didn't have a strong community to come with us, so we chose a place in the middle - not great, not the "safest", but not really scary. our neighborhood is quiet, has a lot of families, and a lot of people own their houses. a few streets over though, different story. which is the burger king is.

jason and i probably have a different theology of safety than a lot of people that we know. his life motto is "better sorry than safe". we both believe that God ever promises us safety. He promises he will be with us, that He will never leave us, but He never promises us we'll be safe. quite the opposite in fact. so i don't think it's appropriate for me to expect a safe, cushy life. i don't think it's appropriate for our family to shy away from danger. because that is not the life that Jesus has called us to.

but now that's changed.

now that "danger" is real. now that fear is growing every day in my mind. now, when i see someone walking down the street, i think "i wonder if he did it". when i hear a noise, i think "are my doors locked?". when it's a beautiful day, i think "i don't really feel comfortable taking a walk around my neighborhood because what if something happens". when i know that jason is walking home from the UALR gym, i think "he left five minutes ago. he should be home by now. i wonder if i should call the police?". every time i hear sirens, i think "i wonder if they caught someone. i wonder where they live". so i lock my doors, i stay inside, i don't meet the new neighbors, i read the news obsessively hoping for answers.

i still believe that this is where God has called us to live. i still believe we should be doing a better job of hanging out with people in our neighborhood. i still believe that God's promise to be with me is way better than if He had promised me i would always be safe. i still believe that we should not pass on a theology of fear, but rather a theology of love and sacrifice to our kids.

but it's a lot harder to say that and write that nowadays. two weeks ago, i would have given you a long lecture. now i half-heartedly say this is how we're called to live, while secretly looking for houses online. two weeks ago i would have invited you to rent the house next door. now, i think you probably wouldn't want to.

fear can be a crippling thing. the thing is, it's almost based on some sort of reality. but how i respond is my choice. i can let the fear rule over me, stay home, avoid the park, avoid the neighbors, be suspicious of everyone i see. or i can rest in the knowledge that God is good. He is with me. He will never leave me. He will never leave my children. He never left Patricia. in the middle of fear, sadness, doubt, confusion - He is there.


Carol said...

Well said.

Ramón said...

Very courageous post, Sarah. It seems that when we follow Jesus into these harder realms of nonviolence and "sorry rather than safe", we periodically run into gut-check experiences where we have to decide yet again that we will follow him into the hard places. As you wrote, He continues to be with you. I hope you guys can get connected with the Body in prayer on this issue. It's a little easier when we don't have to do it alone.

Erin Dorr said...

Good thoughts, Sarah. I struggle with the same issue concerning "fear theology". It was easier when I wasn't responsible for two little lives. So I guess we just press on as best we can - asking the Lord to guide our responses as each situation arises?

Cal said...

Follow John 11:7-10