I saw article after article about the shooting yesterday. It was my first instinct to pass them over because I don’t want to face it again. I don’t want to look down at my baby daughter and tell her there is a reason to fear. I can’t call the shooting in Vegas and Sutherland Springs a “circumstance,” because they were intentional. It baffles me to think that a human being could take lives of the innocent. To think that someone could walk into a place full of the faces that have their own family and friends, and open fire, I just have no words for justification.
I have been holding my daughter tighter today. She has no idea that things like this happen in their world, and I am expected to raise her in it. If you were raised in a family like mine, you are surrounded by family that loves hard and worries much. It doesn’t matter if you are 5 years old or 55 years old, there is someone always worrying and always caring. As I learned of these intentional acts of destruction, I contemplated the same things you probably did. When I walk into church this Sunday, I need to see where the exits are and what I would do to protect my little one. It might be a smart idea to avoid places with a dense number of people, because, you know.
Then my thoughts went beyond the thought of open fire, and into all the ways I have been taught to protect myself. I am not talking about self defense classes (well I tried that but failed), but more about my mindset. If I am walking to my car, I make sure I am always looking around at people and my surroundings. I have my finger on the panic button if I am alone. Once I get in my car, it is an instinct to automatically lock the doors. There have been events I attended where I questioned my safety. For example, I went to Passion when I was in high school and remember wondering if it was a good idea to have 20,000 Christians all in the same location.
It doesn’t stop with being out in public though. The first thing we did when we bought our house was get an alarm system. Buying the house was also safety conscience because we purposely looked for a place with safe, family centered neighborhoods. When I got a chance, I introduced myself to the neighbors to exchange numbers for the “just in case” moments. Not only that, but I literally walk into a room and lock the door behind me. I have locked Jordan out of the house while getting groceries, for crying out loud.
When I was a teacher, my mindset was even more on alert. Sandy Hook sent me into a mindset that my students were my children every time I walked into the classroom. We used to only do hurricane and fire drills as a child, and now I had to teach my students how to hide if a shooter came on the campus. I played out scenarios in my head and every time I knew I would protect those students, at all costs.
It was and is important to teach our children what to do if circumstances arise, but not to live in fear. I can honestly name many more ways I live in caution, but maybe all of those ways are affecting us negatively as Americans and people. In these intentional acts of destruction, there would have been no way for someone to prepare for a person to open fire. I would have never suspected that I needed to add outdoor concerts and going to church to my list of fears, but now I have. What I have realized is that I live in fear and my daughter will one day mimic that fear.
All I can say is that we have the opportunity as parents to talk to our children when times like these arise ( because I know they unfortunately will occur again), and teach them to live in a way that displays God’s power. God obviously gave us the ability to fear, but He also gave us a mind and freewill to think as we please. I will be the first to admit that I repeatedly put fear into my mind because of my love for shows like Law and Order. I repeatedly like music with a beat, but maybe has words that define sin. We put out what we put in. By the way, don’t roll your eyes at the word “sin,” because that ultimately describes why we have intentional situations like 9/11, Sandy Hook, Vegas and now Texas. We are born with sin, but have the undeserving choice to receive God’s grace through accepting Jesus. He gives us that feeling of strength when these storms arise.
How are we practically doing this as parents? How are we practically showing the next generations how to be cautious, but know God is greater? It comes down to this. Teach children to be aware of their surroundings, but to ultimately know that God is in control. Start with reading Scripture of how intentional destruction happened in the Bible and how God used it for His glory. Have them memorize verse after verse that reminds them to trust God, always. Have them point out diction of what the people of the Bible said in times of distress and how God responded to them. Have them draw a comic strip of what the people might have been thinking and what God said back to them. Have them write down descriptive adjectives and adverbs in the verses to describe God. We need to teach our children to balance a healthy amount of fear, with a healthy amount of God’s control. There simply cannot be one without the other.