I was sitting in a darkened basement living room in our temporary housing; I looked up at the sound of footsteps on the gravel outside the window, and next thing I knew, two bricks were thrown at the window, making an unexpected popping sound. With each pop, I screamed, involuntarily, like this piercing sound was jerked out of me; like being startled at a scary moment in a movie. The would-be burglars must have heard me and run away; I was conscious of nothing but tremblingly trying to dial 911 before they came back.
When you’ve been nearly burgled, have looked into the eyes of a would-be burglar before he throws a brick at your window, there are suddenly things you’ve experienced that your imagination couldn’t dream up. As a writer, I’m always imagining how it would feel to be someone else, to experience different things. But here are the things I didn’t imagine I would feel:
What do you do when home becomes a place of threat rather than a place of safety? My solution, which isn’t possible for most people, was to literally leave temporary housing and start the lease on our new apartment . But what about if you have to stay? If you have nowhere else to go? How do you look past a broken window and the fear that they will be back?
When someone breaks into your house, even if nothing is seriously damaged, it violates the sense of safety that you had there. Until that happens, you can imagine that the locks on your doors will hold and the glass on your window is unbreakable. But after that happens, you realize how vulnerable you are, anywhere, everywhere. There is no safety, no place of protection on this earth. We are all vulnerable to random crime, even if we surround ourselves by nice people. News stories of crazed serial killers remind us of this; our own hearts remind us of this.
We are not safe.
There are no guarantees in life.
Our temporal protection is not something we are promised as Christians. What we are promised is difficulty and trouble. “But take heart, I have overcome the world.”
It seems like small comfort to say that God is with us. Yup, you’re going to go through terrible things in your life, you’re going to smell the stench of fear, you’re going to experience pain and terror and loss that your imagination can’t dream up. But don’t worry, God is with you—It seems like slim consolation. Why can’t God just save me out of this world? Or save me in this world, and keep me from all harm? “If you are God, save yourself and us too”—said the first thief on the cross.
The second thief knew better: “We deserve to be here. Our sin has corrupted this world, we don’t hold some kind of special innocence that makes us teflon-safe from bad things. But this Man—this Man was innocent.”
And there is the truth about fear: whatever we experience on this earth, whatever loss we may feel or fear or shame or pain, Christ has known, Christ willingly bore; and this Man was innocent.