In peace I will lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8 NIV Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness. Psalm 5:8a NIV There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18) Safety is a relative term these days. When it comes to the risk of contracting COVID-19, a quick hug (I’ve read) is relatively safer than a long conversation, especially if that conversation takes place indoors, or the participants are not masked. Conducting conversations outside while masked and maintaining social distance is a relatively safe way to communicate; but not as safe as a Zoom call. Eating outside is “the safest way to eat out”...but eating at home is safer than take-out, drive-thru or outside dining. As emerging scientific studies produce new information about the transmission of the coronavirus, parameters shift and higher levels of detail about what constitutes (relative) safety become available. Because our current times give new meaning to the term “unprecedented,” many of us are feeling somewhat less safe than we’d like to feel. Safety is a relative term these days. Spending the last two weeks with the grandchildren has driven home the relativity of safety. The W’s, now 10&1/2, 8&1/2 and 6&1/2, are pretty nearly fearless when it comes to their physical safety. God bless their safety conscious parents, who see to it that they wear their masks when in public, sanitize their hands frequently, and stay out of crowded areas. Of course, that doesn’t change their proclivity for risking life and limb at every possible opportunity...they are wide open and “all boy” every waking moment. Winston (the oldest) is just beginning to perceive the possibility of danger in situations that strike me as being “dead cert” high-wire acts. Wesley, the middle child, literally laughs out loud when risky business presents itself as a possibility. Wallace, the orange haired 6 year old, persists in making remarks like “but I weally wasn’t going to fall off the roof, Gaga; I just wanted to see what it’s like up there.” I spend a fair amount of time clutching at my throat when they are here with us, but I wouldn’t miss it for love or money. A little research has taught me that the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex (the areas of the brain that assess risk and perceive danger) aren’t anywhere near fully developed in them; safety is so relative to them that it has little meaning. So we try to keep them safe. Where we are, here in Winter Harbor, Maine, the COVID-19 numbers are so low that they seem almost miraculous compared to the numbers in various hot spots around the country. Relatively speaking, we are as safe here (from the coronavirus) as we can hope to be. But safety can begin to feel like a prison. With little to do and few places to go, one can easily begin to feel as if the doors are shutting and the bars are closing in. But then I remember what my Mama taught me: do something for someone else and you’ll feel better right away. So I take the W’s next door, and line them up (outside and 10 feet away) to show them to our 94 year old neighbor, Tishie, who is hungry for the sight of children...and the doors of the safety prison swing open. I go online and make a donation to an international anti- human trafficking agency (which happens to be based in New Bern)...and the doors of the safety prison swing open. I purchase a maple sugar candy collection for a friend back home, and text her to say it’s on its way...and the doors of the safety prison swing open. I write a long text encouraging my niece, who’s struggling with the restrictions of navigating a high-risk pregnancy in the age of pandemic...and the doors of the safety prison swing open. Do small things with great love, as Mother Teresa once said. Do something to show love for someone else, and the doors swing open for joy to flood in. Not that I’m there yet, folks. Not by a long shot. I have not yet been “made perfect in love,” as John the Epistle Writer once said. But at least I know what I’m aiming for, God being my helper. At least I know what to pray for: I’m praying for the perfect love of God to cast out fear. At least I know how to put legs on my prayers - by doing small things for someone else with all the great love the Spirit can pour into me.
Little things are all I’m doing; but little becomes much in the hands of God. And God is the only One who can make us dwell in safety. Thanks be to God for the love that casts out fear! “Lead Me, Lord” UM Hymnal, 473
Lead me, Lord,
lead me in thy righteousness;
make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, thou Lord only,
that makest me dwell in safety.
Pastor Susan Pate Greenwood