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Your World - Torn Apart

tornado.gifFrom the files of Random Childhood Memories: I couldn't have been more than 8. My family was on vacation and I remember my parents wanted to take us to some sort of roadside attraction where they recreated the story of the Wizard of Oz. I think the sign said something like "Join Dorothy on her journey to Oz!" or something like that. I can't tell you how it was because I refused to go.

In my kid brain I had some facts. I knew the story of the Wizard of Oz. I knew how Dorothy got to Oz. I knew the devastating power and unpredictability of tornadoes. And there was no way I was going to get into one of them, no matter how safe my parents said it would be. Frankly, I thought they'd lost their minds. How could they assure me that a tornado would be safe?

Of course, it probably was perfectly safe. I was overreacting. I should have trusted my parents. My fault in reasoning as a kid, really, was embuing grown ups with the power to make tornadoes occur on a whim. I know now that they can't really do that. But, you know, I'm not sure my instinct was wrong.

The world is not a safe place, no matter how much grown ups assure you that it is. Grown ups can't always be there to protect you. And they don't have as much power as we pretend they do.

The best thing for it, I have found, is to grow up myself and not count on grown ups to keep me safe. It's a hard thing to face your fears, to prepare yourself, to acknowledge simultaneously how powerful and powerless you are.

In training for this I have ridden roller coasters, eaten sushi, had kids, and a slew of other very scary things.

Now I have children who are sometimes frightened by how powerful and powerless they are. I'm with you.


You know, I am not the bravest person in the world. On a bad day, I get vertigo on highway overpasses; on my best day ever, there is absolutely no way I will drive over those roller-coaster monstrosities that they call bridges in the Outer Banks. The next time I am on a plane, someone had better hand me an Oscar, because my kids will never know that I want to run screaming off the gangway. If you want to know how anything in your life can go horribly wrong, just ask me, and I can tell you. After a certain point in life, I think we have all experienced, many times, the moment when, suddenly, everything is very different--and not in a good way. I never feel special, or immune to the horrible things in life; I am always painfully aware that it can, and sometimes will, happen to me and to people I love. I expect a lot of us feel that way. We know that other shoe is up there, waiting, with our name on it.

But if we allow our fears, realistic and unrealistic, to take over too much of our lives, we will not be effective. It might actually make sense to sit in a corner and suck our thumbs, worrying about what will eventually happen to us (because it will, in some form, eventually happen to us). It might make sense to rail against it, and to be angry at God, but again, after the first wave of rage is exhausted, it is again unproductive.

We are here to make the most of the time and talents that God has given us, to serve others, and to lead them to the salvation He has provided through His Son. And we can't do that if we're too scared or angry to confront life as it is.

Some days I'm good at this; some days, I'm not. When I feel myself going off the mental rails, I tell myself, "now is now, and it can never be a long time ago." It's from The Little House in the Big Woods, and of course it's not true, but it reminds me to focus on what is now, which is really all I know about, and all I have to work with. The other thing is to remember that I do trust in God, my Creator, my Savior, and I believe what He has told me in the Bible. So in any bad situation, we will either live through it, and things will eventually be better (or we will adjust to them), or we will die, and join Him in Paradise--which should be acceptable! It's the not knowing that's frightening. It's the lack of control, the knowing that we cannot save our children or anyone from the evil things of life that scares us. But if we did know, and if we did have control, we would not have to learn to rely on God the way we once trusted our parents. I know that if I had that kind of faith, I could achieve so much more--hopefully one day, I'll get there.

Another thought along this line, and I'll admit right now that I may have first heard this on "King of the Hill." It's a Buddhist story of a man who falls off a cliff and end up hanging onto a branch that will not support his weight, looking up at a tiger who will kill him if he succeeds in climbing back up. The branch, which is breaking, bears some fruit. He eats it, and it is the sweetest fruit he has ever tasted. The world has never been a safe place, but that should make our dirty diapers, failing bodies, messy houses and any pleasure that much more precious.

Personally, Lars, I just depend on grownups like you to keep me safe.

"The world is not a safe place..."

I've been thinking of this post a lot this week, along with "Into the Woods" and various other Sondheim lyrics, as I've listened to so many others discussing and processing the VA Tech shootings this week.

As I sit typing this, I can hear MSNBC reporting about a gunman holed up in a building of the Johnson Space Center--knowing that just this morning, I sent my 10 year old son to Houston with friends, to compete in a Taekwondo tournament tomorrow, and also knowing that one of the objectives of the trip is to visit the Johnson Space Center. I know they arrived safely in Houston around noon today, but I don't know where they are right now. I don't know if they tried to do the Center today, or if they were planning on going Sunday instead. I hope that no news at this point is indeed good news. From the reports, it seems unlikely that they are in any great danger even if they are nearby right now, but there's no way to know that for sure.

Children grow to learn that grownups cannot protect them, it's true. But I think it may be harder to be a parent and realize that you cannot protect your child. You can here and there, now and then, but sooner or later, you know that the only way to *let* them grow is to stop protecting them, and trust--in God, in them, in yourself.

Crazed maniacs are out there, it's true. The first time I realized that I *had* to send my son into a public Men's restroom alone, I silently cursed my ex-husband for making that day come much more quickly than I was comfortable with. But the truth is the danger isn't any less today than it was that day. Bad things can and do happen even in places you thought were safe. We hold our newborns in our arms, and tell them not to worry, we are there. Our children believe in the myth of safety because deep down, we want to believe it, too. Ultimately, we cannot, nor (as Leah said already) can we live our lives in constant fear.

I believe in God. I believe he is in control and that he has a plan, but I don't hold the illusion that he's guaranteeing safety for myself or the ones I love. Safe isn't always "best" or "right" and no one ever accused Jesus of "playing it safe." God doesn't sugar coat the truth, as we are wont to, and he doesn't promise us that things will always be easy, or fun, or even safe on this earth. There are fights that must be fought and evils that must be defeated before the Greater Good finally prevails. That's just the way it is.

Update: Just heard from my friends... They were, indeed, at the Johnson Space Center all afternoon--and had no clue what was going on around them. They knew that the bus tour they were on was stalled, then stopped altogether and sent back to the museum, where they were all told to go enjoy themselves. Charlene was kind of pissed that they weren't allowed to see the rockets and such...until she heard the bigger story. I'm just thanking God that this time, at least, they were all safe.

Argh... did that go through, or did it just disappear into the ether? Either way, short story is that Ben's happy as a clam because he won a bronze medal in sparring at the National competition! Just a brag for you, and you don't need to keep the post. :)

Hey Celia, that's good to know! Congratulations!

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