Choosing Motion

Holding Hand    We are a nation breathless, lungs squeezed tight by images that come unbidden. Single-file children, crying in terror. Faces of parents, twisted in grief, in disbelief. Tiny ones, smiling from the screen, who knew fear in their last moments here.

    Fear.

When I heard the news about the tragedy in Newtown, CT, my mind immediately went to my own children reading in another room, to my nephews’ faces, to the grinning blue eyes of my niece. A madman’s rampage made me desperate, panicky, to touch and hold and breathe the life scent of the little ones I love. As the day went on, I heard person after grieving person speak my feelings aloud.

“I just want to hang onto my kids forever.”

“I can’t stop crying.”

“What’s wrong with this world? It seems to be just getting worse and worse.”

We sob and shake our fists and shake our heads and ask, “Why?” And under it all runs a current of fear. If has happened before, it can happen again. In my town. In my school. In my family.

I confess that, for a moment last Friday, I found some comfort in the fact that I educate my kids at home, that they’re not in the public school system. Then reality came crashing in. They are in public all the time. At church, at the library, at the grocery store. Every time we leave the house. And even if somehow I could be with them every moment, I cannot protect them from every danger that could come their way – every careless driver, every wayward cell quietly growing and spreading, even the sinful choices and illness of the mind that drove one man to destroy the lives of so many last week… It’s enough to make me curl into a fetal position.

Love and fear. These two seem hopelessly tangled. But “perfect love casts out fear”, we are told. So what are we as believers in the hope of Christ to do? We’re caught in a spiritual limbo. We know we shouldn’t be fearful, but this world is a scary place, and caring for others makes us vulnerable.

When my parents became missionaries and moved our family to the Philippines, I had just turned eight, my sister was five, and my brother was a baby in arms. Some of their friends were incredulous. What would possess them to take three young children to a country known for disease, natural disasters, political instability, and all manner of poisonous creepy crawlies? Couldn’t they just find something to do for the Lord in the U.S. where it’s safe?

Don’t think that the thought didn’t cross their minds.

But they prayed. They considered the risks. They counted the cost. And then they faced their fears, held our hands, and moved forward in faith. In faith. Without knowing what would come.

    This is the way we move through every moment of every day – with unawareness of what the next minute will hold.

And this is a terrifying thing. After all, we know we have an enemy, the thief Jesus said comes to “steal and kill and destroy”. My heart can hardly beat thinking about those little faces, those gap-toothed smiles stolen last Friday in a few moments of hellish hatred. The enemy gloats, and we groan, “How long, Oh Lord?”

But we cannot shut down, pull back, let fear push us into hiding. Yes, Jesus said we have an enemy, but he didn’t leave us there, dangling and paralyzed. “I have come… “ (Emmanuel, God with us!) “…that you may have life, and have it to the full.” Brimming, overflowing, spilling down and over our woundedness, washing away the tears and anger and fear and grief. Clean and whole. Able to trust.

And it is here, in choosing to move forward, to take one step and then another, that we find the power of fear starting to evaporate. Because defying darkness, choosing to trust God with that which would cost us the most to lose, is an act of worship. Getting on a plane to move to the other side of the world can be an act of worship. So can putting your kids on a school bus.

In the coming days, as I hold my sweet ones close and listen to their voices giggling and squabbling over new toys, I will laugh with them, run my hands through their hair, kiss their cheeks, drink in the sight of them, and worship their Creator and mine by believing that when all hell breaks loose, the hands that hold Heaven and earth will hold them secure.

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Scripture quotes taken from 1 John 4:18 and John 10:10 (NIV).

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