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May 14, 2020
Safe Place Program - Operation SafeHouse

We are designed by God to seek safety. This primal instinct is a gift, actually. Without it, the human race wouldn’t have survived past Adam and Eve. There’s a part of every healthy human’s brain whose primary function is to notice when our safety is threatened and sound alarms about it. Thank You, God, for this little spot in our Limbic System that is really only concerned with our safety.

If you’re awake, your brain is scanning your environment for levels of threat. Our need for safety is always spinning somewhere below the surface. That’s how the brain works. Imagine how exhausting it would be if we had to consciously focus on this all the time. In combat, one of the things that causes physical and emotional fatigue is the need to consciously be scanning for threat all the time. The term for soldiers on the front lines who don’t do this is “dead.”

In the last couple of months, safety has come to front and center in ways I don’t ever remember before. It seems like every other commercial on TV is about staying safe. “Stay home; stay safe; save lives.” Products as diverse as insurance and toilet paper have caught the wave and are promoting themselves in light of the need to stay safe. There’s a bit of paranoia afoot about staying safe. Just my opinion. An obsession of sorts. Again, just my opinion. I’ll not go into my personal feelings about this. I’ve got ’em, and I bet you do, too.

Wanting to be safe and to keep our families and friends safe is not a bad thing. It’s a very good thing, in fact. You want people and things you care about to be safe. You’re supposed to. But there’s a thing about safety that we’ve got to factor in. It’s this: nothing and nobody can ever be completely safe.

Do as many things as you know to do, put as many safeguards into your plan as you can, make things as safe as you can possibly make them, and the best you can do is make life relatively safe. There is no absolute safety. I’ll say it again, nothing and nobody can ever be completely safe. Sorry if this makes you mad or sad or feel disrespected. It’s a fact, though. We live in a fallen, broken world. Safety will always be relative. The best we’ll ever be able to do is to make things as safe as we can.

Here’s an example. Do you feel safe in your car or truck? I generally do. When I get in and start it up, my mind is never on the fact that nearly 1.25 million people ​are killed in ​​car crashes each year. On average, that’s 3,287 deaths a day. Or that an additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. ( It never enters my mind. I assume I will safely get where I’m going. I try to drive wisely (most of the time…), but I’m not all locked up with fear because there is a chance I could be one of 1.25 million.

Believe it or not, thousands of people die on the golf course every year. And at Walmart. And in church. But I still go enthusiastically to the golf course, and perhaps less enthusiastically, but I still go to Walmart and to church.

Now, you may be thinking I’m taking shots at the Pandemic Mentality. OK. Sort of. But the part of the mentality I’m shooting at is the fear-driven part. The part that’s locking people up unnecessarily.

There is science on both sides of the lock-down thing that is involved in what I interpret as paranoia. Some scientists say staying home has dramatically reduced the number of death to COVID-19. But there are other equally credentialed scientists who say, looking at the same body of data, that locking down actually inhibits what will eventually create the greatest amount of safety, herd immunity.

Yes, more than 70,000 people have died from COVID-19 in some form. (Actually, the hard numbers on this are still being processed. Some very astute scientists believe the numbers could be inflated by as much as 25%. You decide what number you want to believe.) My point is that the Coronavirus is an actual and present threat to thousands of people. Especially those in older demographics and those with other serious medical issues. I’m not pretending the Coronavirus is a myth. It’s real.

What I’m concerned with, though, is the level of paranoia from which we react to it. There are many legitimate reasons to respond wisely, and many fairly simple things this involves. Wash your hands. So your best to say “socially distanced.” If you feel sick, stay home. If you show symptoms, get tested. If you test positive, quarantine yourself. Pay attention. These would be wise responses.

What I believe is unhealthy is panicked reactions. Generally, panicked reactions don’t work out very well.

When your Amygdala (the part of your brain in your Limbic System that registers threat and then fires out signals to your metabolic system to make you ready for fight or flight) goes into hyper-mode, it creates a kind of panic and then becomes the engine for you to react. The part of your brain that is capable of responding (your Prefrontal Cortex) gets hijacked by your Amygdala in a nano-second. You don’t thoughtfully process data and choose a response. You just react. Reacting is a non-thinking thing. Again, this is a gift from God, built into us as a means of prolonging us as a species.

If your Amygdala is firing off because there’s a snake in your path, that could very well save your life, or the life of someone you love. That’s a good thing. But if what your visual cortex as a snake is what is actually just a stick, and you react with the same intensity as though it was a snake, well, that’s not as good a thing.

The COVID-19 outbreak isn’t a stick in the path. It’s an actual snake, and it can do actual damage to whomever it attacks. Statistically, it has a somewhat low kill rate. Less than 2% of the population is likely to get it. But if you’re in the 2%, you can not afford to ignore its very real threat.

So we’re on a sort of tightrope. Over reacting will make wise response impossible. If we under react, game over.

OK, I’m getting ready to land the plane. And not on a political landing strip.

Our current situation with COVID-19 is a case study of sorts. If my theory is correct, nothing and nobody can ever be completely safe, then what are we supposed to do in the face of this real and present danger? My answer is what I remember of a line in My Utmost for His Highest, “Trust God and do what’s next.” (This is probably a gross paraphrase, so my apologies to My Utmost… aficionados.)

As Christians, we have an obligation to both trust God and be wise. If I had to lean to one side or the other, I’d lean toward the trust God side. The good news, though, is that we don’t have to chose one over the other. We get to do both. We get to trust God (Who, by the way, the only One Who can keep any of us safe) AND do what wisdom instructs. In some ways, asking which is more important is like asking which wing on the airplane is more important. I saw a meme on Facebook the other day with a Spurgeon quote about which is more important, prayer or reading the Bible. He responded, “What is more important, breathing in or breathing out?” I think that principle applies here.

What I’m promoting here is not an either/or mentality, but a both/and approach. If you’re not trusting God, well, you MUST! Especially if you claim to be a Christian and follower of Jesus. If you’re not acting wisely, you MUST! God has entrusted your life to you as a stewardship. Steward it wisely and faithfully. The Apostle Paul wrote it this way, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise.” (Eph. 5:15)

Let’s do one another a favor, and steward our lives well by being careful how we live. Live wisely. Respond to what happens to us, instead of reacting to it out of fear and panic.

And by the way, if you’re a parent, you’re teaching your kids how to deal with the sometimes intense and dangerous things that happen in life. The stakes on this are high for you. So live Eph. 5:15-ly.

Now go wash your hands.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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