What happens when we don’t feel safe anymore? When uncertainty rules the day? When life is turned upside down?
The pandemic qualifies as a world-changing event in terms of individuals, families and nations, but even a virus cannot hold a candle to my personal world-turned-upside-down event.
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My life was upended the day my daddy died. Life wasn’t safe anymore, and to this day I cannot explain that reaction. I owned my own home. Made my own money. And yet, the death of my 67-year-old father prompted me to cry out to God for a “protector.”
This will be my 14th Father’s Day without him. Without our dads, Father’s Day pretty much sucks.
Maybe you’ve lost someone – maybe your father or a beloved stepfather – and you feel like a foreigner in this “new” world now. Maybe you yearn for a sense of safety.
Dad was not an Arnold Schwarzenegger. He wasn’t muscle bound. He wasn’t a laborer. He wore a tie and sports jacket to his insurance selling job.
In his 40s, he switched careers. He became a mail carrier. He hauled packages to houses, but he was by no means a menacing figure. And then he got Parkinson’s.
He hobbled. He spilled food on the way to his mouth. We went fishing one afternoon at a neighbor’s pond. His hands shook as he grasped a worm and hook. As gross as it was, I put on the bait.
“It’s come to this,” he said. “My daughter is baiting my hook.”
Why did I feel so unsafe, so in need of being protected after he died?
Our first sense of safety comes from our parents. We skin a knee; we run to Mom. Or Dad. Men tend to take up the role of protector. In our modern world, it often surfaces in subtle ways.
One night before leaving to return to my college campus, Dad slipped me a 10 dollar bill. It wasn’t much but it told me he was looking out for me. Protecting me.
Why did I feel unsafe? It came to me this week.
I felt unsafe because I sensed I was powerless. I knew I was powerless. I had no power to bring Dad back from the dead. I also felt inadequate for the task before me – running what was left of my terminally-ill mother’s life and managing mine, too.
I realize it this week when I sensed I’m feeling powerless again. I feel powerless over this darned virus, over the decisions of leaders, over whether my favorite coffee cafe will be open. It might sound selfish in light of a deadly virus, but sipping coffee away from the house was a mental health tool. It got me out of the house and around people. I’d laugh. Smile. Share.
When we don’t feel safe, we seek refuge. Not all safe places are really, well, safe. They aren’t all healthy. Drugs. Alcohol. Too much work. We try to control the people around us. We get into relationships that feel safe but they end up making us feel more powerless and insecure than ever. Where can we turn on Father’s Day when our Protector is gone?
Emotionally safety won’t look exactly the same for each person. We may look to understanding friends, a daily meditation or spiritual practice, to journaling or to reaching out to others in need. Part of the grief process is finding what is a healthy practice for ourselves, but there’s one source we can all go to when we feel powerless and in danger. The ultimate source.
God cares whether we feel safe. So many Bible verses remind us of the safety God provides. I notice the verses all the time. They speak of refuge, rest, safety and peace.
When I don’t feel safe, I look at those verses, but what’s even more encouraging for me is looking back and seeing how God personally watched over me in unsafe places. When I turn over those instances in my mind, my confidence builds. My sense of safety grows.
“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Oh Lord, make me dwell in safety.” ~ Psalm 4:8.
Friends may misunderstand us. Thinking positive might not suit our needs to mourn. Journaling may not give us answers. And reaching out to others may tempt us to ignore our own feelings and needs. But basking in the presence of a God who sees to our very core provides an incredible comfort. I finally discovered he is the ultimate Protector.
Do you feel powerless? Where is your refuge? What is working for you?
Copyright © 2020 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com