As if the videos and pictures from the Japan earthquake and tsunami weren’t already stretching the limits of what once was unfathomable in my mind, now the very real surreal has shown up in my own back yard. I’m left wondering about the world we’re living in.
Actually, it was my own front yard.
Coming home from church Sunday afternoon, we turned on to our street to find a whole row of parked law enforcement vehicles greeting us. There were at least 3 city police cars and one county sheriff’s deputy car. One had the warning lights flashing.
As we pulled into our driveway and parked, yet another sheriff’s deputy drove up. He pulled into the rear of the line of cars, which was now right in front of our house. We got out of our car about the same time he did and we headed toward the street to ask about what in the world was going on.
He stepped into our yard of offered the explanation that “one of our neighbors” had shot themselves in the leg and then thrown the gun into the empty, wooded lot that is immediately adjacent to ours.
Yes. Of course. That was exactly what I thought it was.
What? Your neighbors don’t do that kind of thing?
What kind of world do I live in??
He said the law enforcement officers were scouring the lot looking for the gun, hoping to find it before someone else did.
Then he made some witty comment about the city cops being slow and he, a county officer, needed to go help them out.
I am grateful and especially thankful to know that they were looking for just a gun and not some crazed criminal wielding it. I am even more thankful that so many officers were indeed involved in the search.
I’m glad that at least one of the officers felt the need to offer us some kind of explanation for what was happening at our property line. I know he was probably repeating the alleged victim’s testimony, but I don’t believe that’s what really happened.
Who in the world, after shooting themselves, throws the gun away?
Who would tell a police officer that story and expect them to believe it?
What kind of world do I live in?
Later that day, again driving home, I heard sirens and saw a big billow of black smoke beyond the trees not too far away. Less than a mile from our house a field was on fire. FIRE. It was an empty field, but lined by houses and roadways. As I drove by I could see the red flames that were taller than I. There were several big fire trucks, lights flashing. Almost everyone driving by, myself included, slowed down to gawk at the scene. Some even pulled off the road to watch. I probably would have too if I had not been on a time schedule.
While the fire was close enough to home for me to be able to see and smell the smoke from my front porch, it didn’t actually appear to be a threat to me. But it could have been.
By the end of the day I had been inundated with images of threats all around me, near and far, but ultimately I was safe and unharmed.
But not unaffected.
I felt as if my imaginary safety boundaries were shrinking.
What kind of world do I live in and where are those safety boundaries anyway?
I felt it hard to turn away from the images of Japan on my computer screen and TV. The cars and buildings and lives being swept away by the wave are thousands of miles away, but they made me cry right here in my own house.
Standing right here in my own house, I couldn’t stop looking out of my bathroom window at the woods next door. As the wind blew the leaves around, I thought I kept seeing tiny flashes of the sun reflecting on something shiny underneath the leaves. A gun? Maybe. Maybe not.
Standing in my yard, those same leaves blowing across my feet, I felt my face getting hot even though I wasn’t really close enough to those flames to feel the heat.
I have been a victim before, directly and indirectly. I’ve been assaulted, had a gun pointed at my head and been threatened with death. I’ve seen my husband’s office ransacked and the empty space where the computer equipment used to be; the hallways littered with broken glass and splintered wood. My phone has rung in the middle of the night in response to an alarm, after which I sat outside on a bench waiting for the police to return from chasing a robber toting off the stolen goods.
I survived all of that, but not imperviously. The feelings and memories have marked my perspective. I have been influenced by it all.
Yesterday I survived a tsunami, a shooting, and fire. And I am not the same.
What kind of world do I live in?
Maybe the most important words in that sentence are not “what kind of world,” but rather, “I live.”
I live where there are no real safety boundaries anyway. I live in a place and time that was chosen by a higher power than I. I live, with every breath I take, surviving the trauma and tragedy of this world; being spared some of it; having to taste some of it.
I live affected by it all and it makes me different.
I am left to live so that I can make a difference.
I need to get busy.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:20-21