As usual, we were running a little behind schedule. David could not find his shoes, and Mikey did not want to wear a coat. Finally, I herded the last of the kids out the door and to the van, where we discovered that someone had left on the interior lights. The van would not start, despite the kids’ pleas to Goldie (the name of our van) to get going so they could go play in the gym. I looked at my antsy kids. Hosanna was running in circles on the front lawn, and Gabi was attempting to stand on her toes and do a pirouette in the driveway. “Let’s get the dog and go for a walk,” I made a snap decision.
Now, we live in a metropolitan area that is not exactly suited for walking with four young kids and a not-so-obedient dog. There are several businesses on our own street, which means a steady stream of dangerous traffic. Still, I was determined to exterminate the cabin fever and so we forged ahead. Despite the dog almost darting out into traffic a few times and Hosanna loudly and mightily resisting her hand being held by her big sister, we managed to traverse the more perilous streets of the neighborhood before coming to the “nature trail” behind our local Wal-mart. By “nature trail,” I mean a skinny asphalt trail with random trees planted on one side and a stunning view of the backside of Wal-mart on the other. It didn’t matter – now I didn’t have to be on high alert for traffic and could enjoy our walk a little more. The kids ran ahead of me, squealing with delight at each new stick find and giggling at the antics of the dog. The trail looped around to the front entrance of Wal-mart. The kids begged to go inside and “just look at the toys for one minute, promise.” I was secretly relieved that we had the dog with us, thus eliminating a long stay in the Lego aisle as the kids examined the newest sets. Reluctantly, the kids followed as I led them back to the neighborhood behind Wal-mart.
Just as we were starting to climb the ramp to the sidewalks beyond, I became aware of flashing lights and police sirens everywhere. A police car pulled right up next to us, and the officer driving shouted something at me. Confused and admittedly a little freaked out, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He pulled out a megaphone. “Ma’am, you can’t go back that way! You ‘re going to have to turn around and go back to the store.” What? “But this is the only way we can walk home!” I protested. ” Ma’am, that way is not safe. A man shot someone and is somewhere back there with a gun. Please go back to the store.” I nodded and directed the kids to turn around.
The kids heard the words man shot someone and gun and panicked. “Mom, I’m scared! What if the guy with the gun is right here in the parking lot? What will we do? How are we going to get home?” I heard the fear in their voices and almost automatically said, “It’s okay, I’m here. Mom will take care of you and keep you safe.” Because that’s what we moms do, right? Whether it’s a boogie man in their closet or a very tall slide at the playground, we reassure our kids that we are there to help them and protect them in any way we can. But if that man with the gun appeared right now in front of us, there would be nothing I could do to protect my kids. In that moment, I realized that I didn’t want my kids looking to me for safety and protection. I wanted them to put their trust and their safety in the arms of their Heavenly Father.
I gathered my kids in a circle and wrapped my arms tightly around them. I looked into their frightened faces and spoke the truth. “I don’t know where the man with the gun is. I’m not sure how we are going to get home yet.” I chose my words carefully. “Let’s talk to God, right now.” There, in the parking lot of the Wal-mart, I began praying for God’s protection on our little family and on the other people around us. David hesitated and then joined in, asking God to help the police find the bad guy. Gabi chimed in next, openly sharing that she was scared and that she didn’t want to be scared and would God please help her to stop being afraid? A sense of calm enveloped us as we hurried back to the Wal-mart entrance. We were told to go inside, dog and all, and of course the kids immediately headed to the toy section. While they were occupied with the latest toys and games, I waited. What was I waiting for – we certainly would not be able to walk home. That was out of the question. Maybe Christ could come get us – except the van wasn’t working. I decided to call my mother-in-law, who within minutes of my call jumped in her van and headed out to rescue us. When she pulled up to the store, the kids piled in, excitedly telling their grandma all about the man with the gun. We drove past the neighborhood that we had just been walking in hours earlier and saw dozens of police cars blocking every entrance, red and blue flashing lights illuminating the area. I thanked God that we had not been there at a different time, a time when perhaps things may not have ended so well.
That night, as I tucked the kids into bed, Gabi stared at me anxiously and asked if the police had caught the bad guy yet. She kept looking at her bedroom window and admitted that she was afraid that he might come to our house. I told her that I understood her fear, but that we just had to put our trust in God and in His protection. Because that’s what it’s all about. My kids can trust in their mom and dad. They can trust in their grandparents. They can trust in locked doors and in the police and in loaded guns. But all of those things will eventually fail them. Only God is worthy of complete trust. When we trust in Him completely, He will direct our paths.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:1-3, 10a