I've been thinking a lot about this word - safety. Does being a Christian keep you safe? Does the Bible promise safety?
I have a lot of questions. Psalm 91 says “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." The same chapter basically promises that God's angels are watching out for us so we don't stub our toe on a rock.
Then Paul in 2 Corinthians has a seemingly opposite story! He talks about stripes above measure, prisons, and death. "Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches."
We all know that so many times we are protected. We have so many answered prayers, touches for God - simple things he helped us find - songs in the night - an unexpected cash gift - we say yes! Praise the Lord! His angels are keeping us from stubbing our toes. Paul had those too. In the middle of all his beatings, shipwrecks, and perils, he witnessed amazing things! He saw prison doors open as he sang to God in the night. He was bitten by a poisonous snake immediately after surviving a shipwreck and turned it into an opportunity to preach the gospel to a bunch of rather scary characters!
The scenes of these amazing stories play out in my mind like the pictures in the old blue Bible story books. But have you ever thought of what it would actually feel like to be in the wilderness sleeping by a stream and being fed by ravens? The ravens came. Yes. God worked a great miracle. But the ravens only came twice a day. The rest of the time, Elijah did - what? Wondered around? Checked the water level of the brook? Thought about how he had been the one to proclaim this drought in the first place? How about, maybe, missed his family and wondered if they were dying of hunger?
David killed Goliath, but what about that heart-stopping moment of fear when he took the first step out to challenge the giant? What about all those months of hiding and writing Psalms in dark caves - that crazy night where he cut off a piece of Saul's robe? Didn't he ever wonder why he hadn't just minded his own business, stayed out of politics per say, and kept peacefully guarding his father's sheep?
Psalm 91 seems to be attributed to Moses, possibly written in the years he spent as a shepherd. And I'm seeing a pattern here with these "miracle men." Desserts. Caves. Solitude. A lot of waiting on God, and wondering why? God had a plan for them, but half the time they didn't have a clue what it was all about.
So can I accept the solitude in my little yard with the gate locked, my too quiet husband, and my annoying black and white cat? Can I accept that there will be gunshots at night sometimes, and that we can't find gas for the motorcycle or car wash, that food and propane prices are getting quite ridiculous, and that yes, of course this country will go on strike yet again and going out in the streets in a private car during the lockdown will just mean rocks thrown thru our windshield?
I'm not a widow with two children and a tiny bit of oil left in the bottom of a jug. My husband just bought a big gallon of oil. I'm not eating locusts and wild honey in the wilderness, I'm eating rice and beans off a flowered melamine plate from Walmart.
But maybe being raised in America makes you think that God will keep you comfortable. (Yes, when I have problems in Haiti, I blame my upbringing!!) But the truth is this - we did grow up with notebooks and water bottles and pencil boxes that said, "Follow your dreams!" and "You are beautiful!" and "Be yourself!" and "Anything is possible!" And maybe we can start to think we are God's little princess child because doesn't it say in the Bible he will give us "the desires of our heart"?
And so it's hard to watch my husband this week. He's man that I've always thought of as very easily content. His dreams are a piece of land with a bunch of fruit trees, a little house, even two rooms to start with, some children, and a way to earn money to take care of them. Well, to be quite honest, he would like a 4-wheeler too. The few times we have seen one in Port au Prince, he's talked about it like a little boy. Last time, I asked what he would actually do with a 4 wheeler here. He said he would take his children to get ice cream at Epidor, a fast food restaurant! (Then he proceeded to act out the scenario and I laughed and my heart melted.) So yes, he does have dreams.
And I've always thought surely God would give him those dreams because God is a big part of them. He's concerned for the church in Haiti and how so many young men are being forced to leave the country. He wants to help the youth. So much. And right now it seems like this whole time since we've been married we've just been spinning our wheels. And now I guess the wheels that we were spinning have been stolen so we can't even spin anymore.
Yes. We want to help. But Friday night flashes thru my mind again. Etzer, a complete clone of my husband, just 10 years younger, slouching through the gate, in despair. We were trying to help him earn some money, not put his life in danger. I see the worry lines in my mom-in-law's face. I think of the friends and family that have sacrificed money and put fear aside to come and visit us and to help us since we've been married. I start to question so many decisions.
I question the day last month when I went to see Maggi in Ganthier all by myself. My husband was gone on a trip and I was so very lonely, and we hadn't heard of any problems on that road for awhile. So I prayed, and then just went. I arrived with shaky hands, yes. But I had a good day and got home safely.
Last week again I was lonely and not feeling that well, so almost every afternoon I went out on the tap-tap with Zeze. One night we were on a bad road and it was getting dark, but we needed to go drop something off at a friend's house, and as usual we needed money, so we were doing traffic. Someone came up to pay, and in the dusk my brain saw a gun instead of whatever it was that they were holding. My heart stopped. But he paid and went on, and Zeze and I laughed about it. Another night, it was pretty late but a bunch of people were waiting for Route Frere, the very road where the car ended up being stolen. We made 90 Haitian dollars that run! Every time someone got off they would comment how strong the car was, and someone said they counted 22 people back there! That road is one long steep hill, and we felt proud of ourselves as we chugged up there, like we were really getting something done. On the way home, the engine stopped. It was right at a very dangerous intersection, but I climbed out and held the flashlight for my husband and one of the passengers adjusted some wires and we got it going. And that night we happily went home to count our money!
What does it mean to truly throw yourself on God for safety? To truly trust him and live confidently? Where does trusting God to protect you cross the line into stupidity? How can I live here - with my imperfect knowledge of dangerous situations and my somewhat reckless personality? How can I be courageous and sensible both? What do I say when friends from America ask me if I am safe?
All these thoughts swirl thru my mind, but in the end I just have to conclude that I am not "God's little princess child." I am a child of the King. Yes. But this King is a Mighty Warrior. His thoughts and plans are so far above my little dreams and ideals of safety and comfort and where I want my life to go. I'm too little to understand my King's ways.
And now, I'd love to know what you think. Does being a Christian mean that you will be kept safe?