“It can’t happen here.” Shock and grief flowed through the words. On my Facebook newsfeed, the phrase was repeated over and over, the way it always is whenever a tragedy strikes, whenever the unthinkable becomes reality, whenever an abstract statistic becomes a personal loss.
It can happen here.
This afternoon, a ninth grader at a local middle school shot and killed another student. I saw the news reports and watched a late-afternoon press conference. The suspect is in custody and will be charged with murder.
Shockwaves of fear hit me. I remembered a recent conversation with my seven-year-old after school. “We had an intruder drill today at school, Mommy.”
“You had a what?” I sucked in my breath.
“Oh, the teacher had to lock the door, close the blinds, and turn off the lights, and we all had to line up on the wall.” To my daughter, this was just another thing in her school day.
To me, this brought back images of Columbine: students fleeing the building, hands by their heads; SWAT teams entering the high school, weapons held ready; a survivor, sobbing as she told the news reporters how she had begged the gunman for her life. Ten years later, my seven-year-old has “intruder drills” much like I had fire drills and tornado drills during my school years.
My gut-level reaction was to snatch up my daughters and flee. But where would we go? There’s no place in this world where we would be completely safe. School. Church. Home. Any place I might go, there is potential danger.
I can’t outrun the evil in this world.
Two nights ago, my seven-year-old crawled into my bed at one a.m., trembling from a nightmare. I cuddled with her and she fell asleep in my arms. When she awoke, I asked about her scary dream.
“I was in a box and hyenas were coming to eat me.”
“That won’t really happen, sweetie,” I assured her. “Besides, if hyenas came to eat you, I would chase them and gobble them all up.”
I want to protect my children, but there is only so much I can do. I can catch the monsters under the bed, eat the hyenas in their nightmares, make sure they fasten their seatbelts, pray for God to protect them when I’m not there. I want them to be safe.
I want to be safe. I want God to give me a completely safe, comfortable, and easy life.
But is that even possible in this world? As a Christian, should my personal safety be my top priority?
I don’t think so.
God never intended Christians to live safely. Some things he asks us to do seem scary or foolish or downright dangerous. Crazy things like forgiving someone who hurt me, sacrificing my time to meet others’ needs, loving him more than my own life. Crazy things like leaving your homeland and packing your belongings in a coffin because you knew you would die on the mission field. Crazy things like trusting him when a fourteen-year-old middle-schooler is murdered . . .
But are they any crazier than God putting human flesh on himself and willingly letting that flesh be pierced, beaten and nailed to a cross?
In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children learn that Aslan is a lion, Lucy asks, “Is he safe?”
“No,” Mr. Beaver replies. “But he is good.”
Like Aslan, God isn’t safe but he is good.
I’ll never truly be safe in this world. There are no guarantees a shooting won’t happen at my child’s school, or my husband will arrive home from work each day, or my house won’t burn to the ground.
There’s no guarantee that just because I obey God’s directions I’ll get the results that I want, or that God’s directions will make sense to me and not seem crazy.
There’s no guarantee God won’t allow something bad to happen to me.
Yet even when his ways seem dangerous and crazy and unsafe, he is still good and I will trust him.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the victim’s family tonight, the students and teachers at the school, and the shooter and his family as well.