Those are the words I heard from my friend as I told her some details about my trip to Israel. For some reason, when she said those three words, I was immediately annoyed. The frustration wasn’t with her, it was more with the insinuation behind the question. “What are you talking about?” I asked with a bit of frustration, knowing full well what the question was. “Is it safe to be traveling to the Middle East right now?” This question made me even more annoyed – partially because I really don’t like that we say “Middle East” as if it’s a thing (I guess you can tell who coined the phrase…yeah Europe, I’m looking at you!), partially because it reminded me of this story (it’s not actually annoying at all; it’s actually really heart-wrenching) but mostly for the reason that I’ll talk about in this post.
The question, Is it safe? is oddly esoteric because it asks one question but means something else. It’s a completely relative question that’s dependent upon the person you’re asking. What my friend obviously meant was, Is it safe for you to be in Israel? I guess the answer to that question would be, as safe as it is for me to travel around an unfamiliar city in the U.S. or go down a dark alleyway alone. I don’t say this as a commentary on Americans traveling to seemingly dangerous countries. That’s not really my major concern. I say this as a commentary on how people view death and life.
Is it safe, is kind of like saying,will you come back alive? I confess, I am sometimes more blunt than I need to be so my response was “I don’t care if I die in Israel!” It’s true, though I probably could have gotten the point across differently. But either way, this is why: I once heard a story about a woman who was afraid of flying. She used to be ridiculously afraid of it until she realized that regardless of what she did, her life was in God’s hands. When it’s your time, that’s it, and there isn’t really anything you can do about it. Of course, I’m not saying we should all run into gun fights without bullet-proof vests because that seems like a really bad idea. But I don’t think it’s a bad idea to do seemingly unsafe things every once in a while.
Having grown up fairly sheltered in suburban America, I know how safety feels. I know what it’s like to be able to walk around town at 11 pm and not have to worry about getting hurt. I know how it feels to wake up and go to sleep to the sound of a peaceful silence. I know how it looks to roll down your window in your car and talk to the guy next to you without being afraid that something bad might happen. But I also know what it’s like to be plagued by illness. I know what it’s like to experience loss. I know how it feels to endure pain.
Regardless of how much you try to protect yourself, you can’t avoid life. And who would want to? How could you know real pleasure without real pain? How could you experience gains without losses? And how could you truly appreciate safety without even the slightest bit of danger?
That last bit may be arguable though. Maybe I should stop philosophizing.
We ordered Chinese today (since lately we almost never cook) and I opened my fortune cookie and read: Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are for empowers you.
I started to put the fortune in my pocket and then I thought, What are you doing??? Why would you ever put a fortune in your pocket as if you’re going to hold on to it? Are you serious?!?!?! So then I threw it away.
Would life really be as good if you weren’t going to die at the end? It wouldn’t be like the eternity we’ll experience with God after death, it would be like everything we experience now, forever. We wouldn’t eternally be in the presence of God, we’d be always wanting more of Him but never getting it. Or maybe not. I guess you could argue that it would be like Eden before the fall, where we could eternally be in the presence of God. But then again, I heard an awesome talk about why we have it so much better than Adam and Eve because we know God in a way that could only happen through Jesus’ death because of the fall. But now I’m just rambling…
I also realize that this doesn’t take into account the fact that other people care if you live or die. I don’t think my friend asked the question because she thinks I should always stay home but because she was actually concerned about my safety. I don’t take that for granted at all. I’m really blessed to have such loving people around me.