By Toni Lepeska
The coronavirus pandemic has elicited a new catch phrase – “stay safe.”
I hear it on the telephone with doctor’s offices and in text messages from friends. It has replaced “take care,” “see you later,” and “be careful.”
How essential is safety? Where can we find it when our world has been turned upside down?
The urge to secure safety was my initial knee-jerk reaction to COVID-19 and stay-at-home measures. I wanted my mother. I wanted to “circle the wagons” with her. But she’s been dead almost 11 years.
Interestingly, I also hunted for safety after my father’s death. My mother, terminally ill, became my responsibility. She could not be the source of safety and comfort that she’d always been. I cried out to God, “Send me a protector!”
We often overlook the essential need as human beings to feel safe until we feel threatened or at risk physically or emotionally. The desire to secure safety is hardwired into us, on par with shelter and food.
Our first source of safety is our parents, especially our mothers.
She is our refuge for nine months, and then she cuddles us with the nurturing nature that God gave women in double-barrel amounts.
She is the one who warms us, who feeds us, who dresses and bathes us. And it is to her that we run for comfort as we grow into toddlers and skin our knees.
Or when a man breaks our heart.
I suspect Mother’s Day 2020 will be especially poignant as we shelter from the virus without our mothers. We don’t know when a vaccine will be developed, we don’t know who among us are infected but asymptomatic, we don’t know if surfaces we touch harbor germs, and we don’t know when our society will return to a sense of normalcy, when we can go sit down in a restaurant or when we can go to work and pay our bills. Uncertainty feels unsafe.
This is so much like a grief experience.
In the wake of a death, we are called upon to remake our lives into a new normal. Each grief experience is unique, so we don’t know what emotion will hijack us in an hour, a day, a week, or a year. Or when we will “get better.”
The loss might have left finances and relationships with family and friends in flux. We want solid ground. In each step we take to secure some kind of certainty, we are searching for safety.
Where can find safety – after a death, on Mother’s Day or during a pandemic?
The other day, I woke up and sensed my mother was looking down upon me.
Knowing you are deeply loved, even if that person isn’t physically present, is a huge comfort and assurance. I soak that sort of thing up, but ultimately I need more.
We all do.
We may run to trusted friends, bury our fears in extra work, or thrust ourselves into projects or into raising children, but ultimately we find these to be imperfect measures. They fail us and cannot control this crazy world.
In the Bible, God is referred to as a refuge – a place to go for safety from danger. He’s compared to a mother hen with chicks.
I’ve seen mother hens protect their chicks. They thrust their wings forward and down as their chicks huddle underneath. She faces danger, drops her head, and if a threat approaches, she charges like a bull, her chicks in her shadow all the way.
You don’t mess with a mother hen.
God offers us a place under his wings.
“He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence [a fatal epidemic] … and under his wings you will find refuge.” ~ Psalm 91:2-4
I might feel good about being under the protection of a police officer, for example, but the Creator of the world is far more powerful and capable.
Sure, things happen to us, to the faithful and the not-so-faithful, and why is somewhat of a mystery. But God promises to be with us in every danger in way that nothing else can be. Even if our body is attacked or falls victim to illness, he is with our internal world. With the “us” that really counts.
Incredibly, we can feel safe in the midst of all dangers in this way.
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” ~ Psalm 4:8
I began this blog post as a popular Christian song, Greater Things, played over the radio in a doctor’s office. I love the words and its message. I love that it’s sung to God rather than about him. And really, that is the key.
We go to God with all our stuff. All the fears. And we bask in his love and assurance. We walk away with a sense of safety that no pandemic can wipe out.
“You never fail, you never will. I trust your name for greater things. You will come through, you always do.” ~ Greater Things
And that is my testimony, too. I still lose my way from time to time and find myself feeling unsafe, but then I go back to the years after my parents’ deaths. My search for a bedrock of sense of security – and where I found it.
After trying one thing and then the next, I discovered that all the time I was crying out for a protector, I already had one who had been working behind the scenes.
God is my safe place like no other.
As we approach Mother’s Day, we think of incidents of times moms made us feel loved and safe. A good mother is our first window into the personality of God. What did your mother do to make you feel safe?
Copyright © 2020 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com