At the beginning of this pandemic the advice was, “Stay home, stay safe.” That made sense to most of us. We were experiencing something unprecedented in most of our lives. We didn’t know a lot about this virus and we wanted to make sure we didn’t do anything that would cause harm to ourselves or others.
As time has gone by, things have changed. We know a lot more about this virus, but a lot of questions remain and the message of safety still abounds. But what is safety anyway? And where are we looking for safety? A better question might be this: what kind of safety has God assured us of?
I guess I was between the ages of 11 and 13 when I would ride my bike to and from the swim and tennis club outside our neighborhood. Both my parents worked but they were ok with me riding almost the one mile distance there to hang out by myself or with friends. That was a big part of my summer – going to swim team practice in the mornings and returning later in the afternoon to attempt a jump off the high dive or just hitting tennis balls against the practice board. I didn’t think much about doing this day after day. I felt safe. There is a community pool outside the neighborhood where I live now and I don’t think I would’ve allowed my own children to do that when they were that age. Why not? The freedoms most kids enjoyed decades ago seem like parental neglect today. What happened? Did the world become much more dangerous and violent, or did we as parents become much more protective and scared?
This is just conjecture on my part, but maybe, over these past several decades, we’ve relied more and more on ourselves instead of on God. Maybe our confidence has shifted and we take on that much more responsibility for every possible outcome in our lives, and our children’s futures. Maybe we’ve put our security more in what we can achieve and invested our identity more in our children’s success.
Psalm 46 says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. God is described as a refuge many times in the Psalms. A refuge is a place of shelter, protection, or safety. But if we’ve put God in the dock and relegated him to a relic of superstition, where is our refuge when the ground beneath us begins to shift? Can we be our own refuge? What about our stuff or our achievements or our kids? Can they be a refuge in the storm? Where do we look when those things are threatened? The government? What about our health? Where do we look when that is threatened? Can science and technology save us?
We all want to be safe, to be free from hurt, sickness, injury, danger or risk. We don’t want our loved ones to suffer. How many times have you heard or read, “Be safe!”, in the past three months? Every industry and organization is being forced to retool their operations and their methods according to this motto. The messaging underneath the motto is this: do things that tend toward safety. Don’t be irresponsible and don’t risk harming yourself and others. But is there a danger if we emphasize safety too much? Should ‘being safe’ be elevated to the highest virtue? Where is the line between taking care of yourself and your loved ones in a responsible way, and living in fear? Isn’t there a point at which you go over the cliff and start living in fear of everything? Can we really live with such strict parameters around our daily lives, constructing bubble wrapped and sanitized environments where we are guaranteed not to be harmed? Is this realistic? But more than that – is it biblical? Is this how God wants us to live?
This is what I’ve been thinking about and in the next couple posts I’ll explore them more. Thanks for reading and thinking with me.