The school I work at is in the part of the city that people politely refer to as “not great.” The less polite way of saying it is: “really sketchy”.
Most of the time, once I’m at the school, I forget about the surrounding area. But then last Wednesday, on my way home from the after school program, I drove past a crime scene. Two police cars. The yellow tape. A small bunch of curious onlookers being kept back by police officers.
The next day I scanned the newspaper and I read in a blurb on the side that it had been a shooting. The victim’s injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.
That was the second shooting this month that had taken place within a mile of the school and during my school day. I thought that I was dealing with the stress of it pretty well, until at lunch on Thursday when I saw a text from a friend of mine, just asking how I was doing. And for once, I didn’t give my typical “I’m doing well, life is great” response. Instead, I said I was shaken and asked for prayer. And promptly started crying.
Maybe it was relief at finally admitting that I was scared. Maybe it was because, for the first time, it occurred to me that, unlike the kids that I work with, I had an escape. Every day around 5, I leave. I retreat to my suburban home and my loving family and I forget.
Every day when I leave the school, once I get a few minutes out of that neighborhood, I start to feel a little easier. I open my car windows. I breathe a little sigh of relief.
I saw the same tendency played out last week as the people of Boston poured out into the street after the terrifying string of events that kept them shut in their houses. After hours of uncertainty, they got the news that it was safe to come out. They came out laughing. They breathed the fresh air again.
We do this all the time. Something terrible happens and for a little while we live in fear. We double bolt our doors. We look at people differently in the airport. We talk in nervous tones about “feeling their pain” while hoping that it never becomes ours. Then time passes and we convince ourselves that we’re safe. But there’s always a “because.”
Because I live in a good neighborhood.
Because they caught him.
Because nothing bad ever happens here.
But safety is never a 100% guarantee. No neighborhood is perfect. There will always be someone else who is wounded enough to want to hurt others. This world is broken. And something that is broken is never really safe.
Last week, I had to acknowledge that it isn’t ultimately my neighborhood or my car or my street smarts that have kept me safe these past 22 years. It’s simply the fact that the God who loans me life every morning isn’t finished with me yet.
In Jim Elliot’s biography, Shadow of the Almighty, he said “Man is invincible until God is finished with him.” Not just safe. Invincible.
I can rest assured that God will keep me until the day that He is ready to take me home. To a home that is truly safe in a way my suburban life can never be.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4-5)
God hasn’t promised me a long life-or a comfortable one. But we are promised that God will be with us until the end.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)