I believe I’ve been on Facebook about nine years or so. It’s experienced quite a bit of changes. One of the most profound has been the incorporation of a user’s capability to mark oneself safe. This notification allows those of us who are concerned about the whereabouts of our loved ones when tragedy occurs. It further provides some sense of relief or peace, even a mild “okay” for those of us when we see the notification. I say okay, because given the world we reside in, with its perpetual (wo)man made and climate made (yes, I am a believer) occurrences, we can at best hope that life is sparred even when other aspects that make our life more palatable may no longer exist. I’ve witnessed friends and loved ones mark themselves safe in Orlando when a gunman entered a nightclub and unloaded his rage on innocent, beautiful lives. I’ve witnessed friends and loved ones mark themselves safe in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire at a concert on innocent music lovers. I’ve witnessed friends and loved ones mark themselves safe in Denver, when a gunman murdered innocent moviegoers; and in my beloved hometown, Chicago, often, more than anyone would desire or imagine, my innocent friends and loved ones navigate their safety more than Facebook can even capture. Suffice to say, it was surreal to find myself and loved ones and the loved ones of my friends marking themselves safe over the course of the last 96 hours in my beloved home of the last 25 years, the great state of North Carolina, and our neighbors in South Carolina. I pause immediately, mid blog to ensue your prayers for everyone in the path of Florence, and her aftermath as we prepare for the rivers to crest. Yet marking oneself safe in a natural storm, and a spiritual storm is quite distinct. As I shared my hurricane safety post and received the familiar sighs of reliefs and praises to God from my family and friends, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I too am providentially safe in the arms of God.
But our sense of safety is not relegated to natural disaster. People feel unsafe in relationships, in workplaces, in churches and even within the corners of their mind. Daily I wonder if some of us have developed a greater immunity to trauma because we have become so conditioned to living in a constant state of unrest because we lack refuge. Just like the innocence of the people exposed to tragedy at the hands of people unloading their unaddressed rage, we too feel innocent when things happen that we did not play a role in receiving. Talk about hardship. Yet, our ability to trust when everything around us is in shambles, is unequivocally attainable by the peace of God. It doesn’t mean that we won’t cry, moan, groan and even scream. To be sure, God gifted us with each one of those responses, and we are liberated to use them as we deem necessary. Yet even when we are responding to the environmental conditions externally, internally, we know that deep within resides a settled space, determined to believe amidst physical evidence that may signal otherwise. We experienced safety before Facebook or other social media tools enabled us to share it with the world. Our ultimate safety was established at Calvary, and we are still reaping the benefits!
I read a few posts of people inquiring the extent to which we prepare for Jesus’ return in comparison to a hurricane. I’d offer that it’s difficult for people to consider the return of Jesus because we are often overwhelmed with our present set of circumstances to think about what may happen later. We must seek safety at its basic, most fundamental level before we can consider the next. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs positions safety, food, shelter and such as the base of the pyramid before reaching the top, which is self actualization. May we be compelled to go beyond marking ourselves safe, and instead deploy our gifts, our resources and most certainly, our prayers to those who are feeling most vulnerable. As we witnessed our neighbors flee flood waters, and their homes washed away, safety was indeed compromised. In the weeks and months and possibly years to come, rebuilding will be an enormous task. If we get caught up in what we see and not what we may yet hope for, we too will be stuck in the impossibility. Those of us less impacted not only by the flood waters, but the floods of life, must be held responsible for the hope and practice that which our neighbors are not yet able to recognize and imagine.
Amidst the challenge, we witness the faith and hope of our ancestors, that girded certainty that our safety resides in a higher power. Their purpose and time spent on this earth was unable to be shaken by disaster because their sanctuary, their asylum, their refuge was not rooted in things, but in the hope of God. That’s the brand of safety I need. That which weathers the storms of life, that which allows me to pass through the rivers of difficulty and not drown (Isaiah 43:2). We can mark ourselves safe all day long, but if we cannot mark ourselves safe in God, and we are still breathing, may we use this opportunity as a prophetic call to rest in Him and assume the ultimate status of safety. May we be prompted to help others to their status of safety and return time and time again until we are sure that everyone is out of harm’s way. Selah.