Her two-month-old daughter was still nursing at her breast when she ran in the door, screaming at her preschooler to get inside. At the sight of her young children, I assumed that her alarm and urgency was the result of a spit-up mishap or pants wetting.
I was completely unprepared for her words when she began explaining the gunshots outside.
My husband left me at the glass display case where we had been choosing our ice cream flavors. Our boys sat feet away at a metal table digging into their sorbet, licking sticky red sugar from around their lips. My husband cautiously glanced outside and confirmed that yes, there were police—and a lot of guns. He told us to go to the back. The young woman working the ice cream counter ran quickly to the front door. I heard the “click” of the dead bolt lock as she secured the building, and then turned to usher us all to the back room. There we waited, a handful of strangers amidst shelves of chocolate syrup and jars of cherries. My boys stood innocently at my feet, licking at their dessert.
“How old is she?” I asked the woman who had run in to escape the scene. She smiled slightly and answered, “7 weeks”. Her infant girl nuzzled against her shoulder.
“I think we’re good.” My husband called us out of the back room. “The police seem to have it handled.” he added, his eyes still locked on the scene. We joined the other bystanders outside, staring at the pharmacy parking-lot-turned-crime-scene. People pulled phones from pockets, uploading the events to who knows where. Our boys climbed back up into their chairs. “Why were we in the back, Mama?” my four-year-old asked me. I told him we were seeing how they make the ice cream. My husband and I returned to choosing flavors, and then joined our boys at the table.
In between bites of dark chocolate and raspberry swirl, I couldn’t help but wonder, yet again, what type of world my boys will grow up in. I can do everything in my power to keep them from evil, and at the same time feel completely powerless to keep evil from getting at them. A simple trip to the ice cream shop could change everything. A visit to the playground, a field trip to the library, a day out at the zoo–how can we not be suffocated by the fears that threaten to unravel us at any moment?
That very morning as I was reading, I had wondered why the verse had seemed to stick out amongst the text. How many times had I read it before? And yet today the words seemed to hold more weight.
“So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
In those instances when my child is threatened, I feel as if man could do the very worst to me. My whole life could fall to pieces in an instant. Evil seems so big, and I feel so small. Powerless. Vulnerable.
The moment we become a mother or a father is when a whole new world of fear opens up to us. Suddenly our life is capable of shattering in a million new ways.
As author Lisa-Jo Baker says it in her book, Surprised By Motherhood,
…with each new baby, we are that much more vulnerable to having our hearts broken into tiny little bits forever…Against all odds, knowing that sickness, sin, failure, and disaster lurk on the fringes of every day, we choose to embrace life.
But how does the mother in Syria, wrapping her body around her infant son to protect him from bullets, choose to embrace life?
How does the father, receiving a phone call that there is a bomb threat at his daughter’s school, choose to embrace life?
How do I, while sheltering my boys in the back room of an ice cream parlor from the gunshots outside, choose to embrace life?
The Lord knew what we would face on this earth. He knew that His beautiful creation would become marred by unthinkable violence.
He is a God who knows. He is a God that sees.
Right now, whatever circumstances you find yourself in, whatever deepest fears are haunting your soul–He knows, and He sees you.
The Bible, speaking of Sarah, who was called to embrace life and promise despite fears of the unknown, says, “…you are her (Sarah’s) children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:6)
He does not call us to pretend that our fears don’t exist. He calls us to find shelter in Him, and trust that He is a God of peace that knows no bounds.
He calls us to live as if our lives depend on His promises, because they do–promises such as, “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the storm of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:24-26)
He knew that the storms of the wicked would come. We have a God who does not dismiss our fears; a Heavenly father who knows the anguish of watching His own child suffer. And this is the God who promises us an abundant life, unriddled by fears and anxieties. He is the God who knew beforehand the things that our fears would be made up of, the realities of a harsh and terrifying world, and gave us His promises to stand up against them; to find peace when the world offers none.
Our world is pocketed with uncertainty and tarnished by evil. We can live our lives struggling to keep afloat amidst a sea of fears, or we can allow His perfect love to drown our fears and set us free. Which will you choose today?
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)