A couple months ago I took my girls to Chick Filet to meet some friends and grab a snack before heading to track practice. As I sat there, enjoying waffle fries and chatting with another mom, my friend’s husband came up to our table, kind of crouched down and said in a low voice, “Just so you know, a man just came in and he has a …” He was speaking so quietly that I didn’t catch the last word he said. He repeated himself. “A gun.” I just stared at him, trying to process what he was saying. So many thoughts ran through my head. Lots of people carry guns here. Then he motioned with his hands and said, “It’s this big!” His hands were about 3 feet apart. I don’t know why my mind just couldn’t wrap itself around what he was trying to tell us. Then he said, more urgently, “It’s a machine gun.” At that point, I locked eyes with my friend across the table, and it was like time stood still. In those few seconds, so many different scenarios played out in my head. Do we stand up and grab the kids and run out? Do we get under the table? Our kids were spread out at several different tables with their little friends. I felt absolutely helpless. I don’t know how many seconds passed before I turned around and looked up over the little half wall divider in the restaurant. When I did, I saw that he was surrounded by 3 police officers who were putting him in handcuffs. I told the girls to stand up and walk out. Now. We walked straight out to the van, and I drove away. As I was waiting to turn out onto the main road and put distance between us and whatever was going down back there, I felt myself clutching the steering wheel and tensing myself, bracing myself, waiting for…something, gunshots, an explosion. As I drove away, it hit me that this felt familiar- this awful feeling of bracing yourself for something really horrible over which you have absolutely no control. That feeling took me back to a different time and place. It made me feel like that little girl in Peru living through terrorism. It made me think of the nights our parents would have us go to bed with shoes placed upside down so that if the windows shattered in a bombing, our feet wouldn’t get cut with glass as we tried to get to the embassy. It made me think of scrambling to find each other in the dark when the power lines had been hit and crying because my Dad wasn’t with us, and where was Daddy right now with bombs going off all over the city? I remembered laying in bed night after night praying that we wouldn’t die. I remembered rubble from car bombs. I remembered fear.
And now, this many years later, as an adult, I was back there again. My illusion of safety had just been shattered.
That really messed with my head for a couple of days. I had a very hard time concentrating. I felt like I was walking around in a fog. I checked in with the other three families that were there just to be sure that actually happened. It just felt surreal.
I found myself having to process things that seemed to have melded together somehow from the past and present.
My parents always taught us that the safest place on earth is right in the center of God’s will. That means that you obey Him. Period. I believe that. I do not look back on the past and question whether we should have been where we were. The fact that we are Americans does not mean that we are entitled to safety and comfort. But being in a foreign country, experiencing chaos and terror, made it very clear that if we were going to be safe, it was going to be God’s doing, not our own. We would be walking by faith and trust that He had us in His strong hands.
I have to say that somehow it does not feel like that living here in America. It is easy to feel pretty safe here. We live in a safe neighborhood. We don’t go into sketchy areas at night. Trust in God has often felt more like a theological concept than a concrete reality here- until two months ago, when I sat and wondered if this man was going to open fire on my kids.
A couple of things have stayed with me from that experience. First, I am not in control of what happens in my life. I know that is true, but over time it can feel like we have all of our ducks in a row and our plans all laid out, and we can start to feel sovereign over our lives. We forget that we are not even guaranteed another heartbeat. Control is an illusion. Walk humbly.
Secondly, God and people are what matter. In those moments, where it feels like life or death, all you think of is your people, and your God. That is it. I want to grab my family and cry out to my God. Your priorities become crystal clear. Everything else can just fade out of view.
The third thing I am taking away from that experience is that life is a vapor. To live like we are immortal is the epitome of foolishness. God protected our family in the past. He protected us all recently. But I have an expiration date. Every day I move toward it. It could be tomorrow. Life is precious. Life is fleeting. Time is short. It really matters how we spend it.
And finally, there is only one safe place. It is Jesus Christ. I am in His hands whether I am in suburbia USA, or hugging my mom and siblings in the dark, waiting for the bombs to stop. In life, or in death, safety is found in Him alone. The safety of our eternal souls depends entirely on Jesus Christ and whether or not we are His. Do you know Him?
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel