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Safe

He that’s secure is not safe. – Benjamin Franklin

Freedom lies in being bold. – Robert Frost

Fall.

It always begins with such hope, doesn’t it?

We breathe the faint scent of maple and cinnamon, sense the flint of the chilling air as we drive to work and school, pause for a pumpkin-flavored coffee or treat, wrap ourselves in warm scarves and cozy pea coats, scuff our boots against the leaves littering the sidewalks, and say,

This year…

This year I will …

Make my kids’ lunches the night before

(I know, a miracle).

Read with the kids more before bedtime.

Get them to bed earlier.

Go for a run before work.

Plan our meals in advance.

Sleep more. Eat better. Exercise more.

Stress less.

Plan better.

Say no more often.

For us homeschool moms, this list might look something like:

This year

I will be kinder, calmer, more patient.

More prepared, enthusiastic, involved.

More academic.

More social.

Happier.

Quieter.

We will do more activities.

We will do less activities.

We will have more family time. More fun. Less stress. More sleep. Less illness.

Because Momma’s got a plan.

Oh, plans.

Seriously.

Really.

I should know better.

After all, no maternity nurse ever said:

If only they’d had a better plan!

For nearly seven years I have ranted about plans. When I was pregnant with my first

before I used to help large things come out of small places

I thought birth plans were a beautiful idea.

Know what you want. Be educated. Don’t let anyone push you around.

But while every laboring woman thinks its a brilliant idea to delineate every nuance of her birthing philosophy in five sentences or fifteen pages, every labor nurse takes one look at the plan and thinks,

let’s just schedule the c-section now.

Because the unfortunate truth is,

In labor, plans work the opposite way that you want them to.

Or as my first perinatal specialty professor used to say:

Tight mind, tight cervix.

So, if there’s anything I’ve learned in the past seven years, its –

How to have a c-section in four easy steps:

1. Write a freaking long birth plan in which you

2. Demand that absolutely nothing go wrong, and if it does, assume

3. The people taking care of you want to force interventions on you, especially a c-section, which you

4. Fear more than death itself.

And in case I sound blaze about all this, moms, know that

there are plenty of good reasons to have a c-section

and

I get your fear.

I know what it is to be vulnerable.

In fact, I’ve spent most of this week doubting that those in power over me

actually want what’s best for me.

Oh, they say that they do.

What person delivering hard news ever says that they don’t?

But as David knows better than most,

I’m a bit of a skeptic about things like that.

And though

in an ideal world

we would all feel safe,

I’ve spent a good part of my adult life in a less-than-ideal world.

When I first got sick, I had three groups of visitors: 

1) those who brought me food,

2) those more upset by my illness than I was, and

3) those sure that if I just took this supplement or that vitamin,

it would all go away.

Or as David likes to say,

My arm was amputated in the World War II! But with only a few drops of Lavender oil, it grew back!

(No, really. Some people sounded that convinced that they could fix me.)

And while the first group kept me going with their listening and laughing and crying and praying and cooking,

the second made me sad

– not for me, but for them –

with their fearful realization that

no easy fix, no lifestyle change, no virtuous living,

– not even my faith –

had bought me a ticket out of disaster.

After all, what else forces us to confront our own fragility

but watching someone we know grapple with a life-threatening disease?

I’ll be honest.

It was too much for some of them.

Because, though none of us live forever,

it doesn’t stop us from trying.

And though none of us avoid pain forever,

it doesn’t stop us from running away from it.

Let’s face it:

We are a society obsessed with avoiding hardship.

We call it staying safe.

And while we’d be fools not to acknowledge the merit in our conventional wisdom of self-preservation,

we’d also be fools to follow that wisdom

right to the end.

Because, before we know it, staying safe has become

staying separate

in that we are

No longer engaged with life but embalmed from it.

And as I told a friend who

– at times –

fears her reputation for brutal honesty,

Just because we don’t talk about conflict doesn’t mean its not there.

Or as Aragorn said when King Theoden shied away from open war in Tolkien’s classic The Two Towers:

Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

Friends, conflict is a part of life.

And while we dizzy ourselves thinking – hoping –  that if we do the right things, and don’t do all the wrong things,

nothing bad will ever happen to us,

we’ll be safe,

guarded,

enclosed,

the truth is

while chasing after the best life we might actually cut ourselves off from the real thing.

A couple weeks ago, in the middle of the September school crunch, David and I whisked our girls off to Spanish Banks for a three hour walk – or Nature Treasure Hunt, if you ask the girls – on the south shore of Vancouver’s stunning Burrard Inlet. As we wandered back to our car, I told him about the idea for this blog.

In the middle of a thought, he interrupted me with:

The worst thing you can do when you see a bear is run away.

See, a few months ago I wrote about Brown Bears and Black Bears. My husband’s non-traditional wisdom of Boy Scout training plus Meredith Rock Hounding trips has taught him that

in some things we need to fight

and in others we need only to be still.

So, this week, while I’ve been pondering his

You need to figure out if this a black bear or a brown bear,

I’m also remembering what another wise man has said:

Sometimes we must stay where we are and not run away. – Warren Wiersbe

Here’s the thing:

Staying demands faith.

Doubt says,

How can I get out of this?

Faith says,

what can I get out of this?

Friends, the conflict some of you find yourselves in will inevitably propel you to move.

But before emotion launches you headfirst into the open war you’ve been sensing on the horizon,

before you grab your sword with shaking hands and unsteady mind,

you may want to just

stay put

and let it simmer.

Percolate.

Grow.

Declare itself.

This is not a lazy waiting. It’s an active waiting. A watchful, patient waiting. A waiting that studies our opponent, observes our allies, prepares, gears up.

A waiting that accepts that life is no longer safe,

grieves the loss of ease,

and prepares to act with thought and

Grace.

If you find yourself in this moment, in this place, I want you to know that

you are not alone,

and

what you are walking through is not for nothing.

I’ve spent the last weeks in an ancient story of a man with big dreams and long years of

injustice,

heartache,

waiting.

And at the moment his dream comes to fruition,

he has waited long enough to know that

he was not saved by his own merit

nor was

his years spent waiting for nothing.

In fact,

the waiting was everything.

Our world is not safe.

But there is One Who is completely unfazed by storms and utterly undeterred by wind.

And as the children of Narnia marveled to find that Aslan was not in any way safe but in every way good,

We would do well to realize the same.

and know that

what we’re really craving isn’t safety but

Goodness.

And goodness is rarely found in the encased trenches of a light little sphere.

I’m afraid that one has all the goodness and the other all the appearance of it. – Jane Austen

It is, however, found in the heroes of old, the men and women who’ve learned to thrive

not on conflict

but in it,

and who know that

the end of safety is the beginning of everything else.

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships were built for. – Grace Hopper

Be brave.

Wait.

Watch.

Still yourselves.

Steel yourselves.

Smile.

Because

You’re just getting to the good part.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. sammy #

    again, you amaze me… this one hits home a little more, I’ve just had a good conversation with my daughter along these lines, she has MS… It is now progressing a little faster, she’s scared, she’s frustrated, but she’s a fighter… She has always hated talking about it, “it’s a big waste of energy to do that”, and who wants to hear about it every day, she doesn’t… I respect that, and seldom ask, but a momma knows, a momma sees… There were some new tests and changes she hadn’t told me about recently, and I noticed a large gauze covering on her lower arm a couple weeks ago – it was an iv insert & she had to try something new 3 days in a row at the hospital… so I asked her to sit down… we talked, gently, honestly… she said she didn’t want to worry me… I said I do anyway, it’s on ‘auto’ : ) but I can handle the small steps much easier than a big one all at once… she hadn’t looked at it that way… so hard for us moms when we can’t ‘fix’ our babies… and for moms like you who worry about their own mommas too… Suzie’s a fighter like you… that gives me so much hope… your words not only help your momma, but us out here too… bless your heart, honey, you are such a gift to my buddy… hugs, have a good night… love,
    Sammy!

    October 25, 2013
  2. This one hit home for me too! I have a picture over my fireplace of my little family staring out over an open sea. The sea is calm, for now, but I know it’s not going to stay that way forever. We are looking out into the future, into the unknown, and there is something coming that will require a lot of faith and trust. We are waiting….but right now we are not sure what exactly we are waiting for. Thank you for putting into words what I have felt in my heart for so long.

    October 27, 2013

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