I have been pondering recent World Race blogs on safety and idolatry. This is not a topic that is new to me.
Many years ago now, my family and I (three children aged 12-18) were scheduled to go on a mission’s trip to Venezuela in the middle of that country’s unrest with Chavez. I was struggling with the safety issue, and our church was waffling in whether of not it was “safe” for us to go.
My husband and I were in Costa Rica, and I was processing with God the next trip – Venezuela. Riding in a van down a mountain to the sea in Costa Rica, we were conversing with tourists. One man was from Israel. My heart longed to go to Israel, but I never felt it was “safe.” I asked him about it.
“What are your thoughts? Is it safe for us to visit Israel?”
He responded with a resounding, “Of course it is safe! We have militia with machine guns on street corners to keep us safe. Besides, nowhere is really safe. What about that shooting that happened at Northern Illinois University? Do you think the United States is safe?”
I hadn’t heard about the shooting. We had been in the mountains of Costa Rica without access to phone or Internet. My daughter went to Northern Illinois University. My first reaction was – it can’t be “our” Northern Illinois University. I questioned him further – yes it was our NIU. My heart raced, my limbs weakened, and I prayed all the long six hours down the mountain.
When I heard my daughter’s voice, I wept for all the parents who had lost children – who would not ever again hear their child’s voice.
That was when I understood: There is indeed no safe place.
As it turned out, the missionaries in Venezuela canceled our trip- yes – because it was an unsafe time. Instead of going to Venezuela, our team headed to Quebec that summer. God gives His wisdom when we seek Him. We do not rush blindly into areas. When God calls – we go. When he warns us, we stay. The Holy Spirit guides. Even Jesus did not throw himself off the cliff.
This fall, in our small, hometown area, we have lost a young man who fell down the stairs and hit his head, cheerleaders in a car accident, and an Intervarsity student on his way to a retreat. If God wants our children home in heaven, it will happen wherever they are. Do we think our children will not die because they live near us? We do not know what will happen even the very next second of our lives.
When my daughter said she wanted to go on World Race, I struggled with the safety issue. I remembered the lessons from Costa Rica – and the boy who died falling down his stairs in his home. More importantly, I remembered that I have a sovereign God.
As parents of our World Racers, we will be concerned for their safety. God designed us that way – to protect, to nurture, and to model what it looks like to follow Jesus with our whole heart. I am grateful for precautions that World Race has in place. It would be foolish to send our children into a cholera epidemic. It is not idolatry to long for our children to be safe. What is idolatry is when we place anything above God’s call. When we want our way more than we want God’s way – that is idolatry. It is also idolatry when we seek adventure more than we seek God’s will. When God says, “no” – we stay. When He says, “wait” we do not rush headlong. When He redirects, as he did the Apostle Paul (against Paul’s own wishes) – we go where he sends.
It is not idolatry when our children choose to live in the town or city where they grew up. God calls people there, too. After mission trips to China, Ireland, England, Quebec, and Africa, my oldest daughter decided to be a missionary with Intervarsity on the college campus near where we live – NIU – where the shootings had happened. Five years later, she is now teaching at a Christian school a mile from my home.
God is in the heart business. He wants hearts that desire to serve Him – love Him well – love His people – serve His people. God is looking for willing, obedient hearts. He sent his first missionaries to all places. Some stayed (Jerusalem), some went a little ways (Judea) and some went to the outermost places of their world, as our children are doing with World Race.
I would caution us against judgment with each other. World Race parents do not need false guilt because we have concern. Instead of accusing of idolatry when one of us is afraid, let us focus on the sovereignty of God – who is with us wherever we go. We leave conviction to the Holy Spirit. Let us offer each other grace to grieve. Let us offer each other encouragement in faith to conquer fear. Let us strengthen each other with the truth that we can completely trust our sovereign God. When accusations are made that our sadness is sin or our concerns are idolatry – we shut down communication. Transparency becomes nonexistent. If we are afraid, let us tell each other and pray. If we want our children to live next door and they are in Africa, let us grieve together.
But also – let us rejoice together. Our children have chosen to be world changers for the sake of Christ and the kingdom. Is this not what we raised them to be? Has this not been the heartbeat of our home and our heart’s longing? They are our arrows, and we shoot them into the world. Go in the name of Jesus. Trusting God, no matter what. No matter what.