Whose sweaty hands might have pushed this shopping cart before me? Someone with Ebola? This was me: the face of normal suburban woman. With the mind of a panic-stricken psycho. That’s why I passed up the shopping carts that day, with my child on my hip, determined to carry all my groceries in my arms.
Hello. I’m one of “those” people with what’s been called “fear-bola.” And this is the very reason I was at the grocery store. I was preparing for what my husband likes to call “the Zombie Apocalypse.” And by preparing I mean storing away some non-perishables and bottled water. Shampoo. Supplies. Etc. And by “Zombie Apocalypse,” I mean…well, use your imagination.
I’ve seen the movies people! I’ve seen Outbreak, and Contagion, and World War Z. And if Ebola catches fire in America, the next thing you know is that everyone will start freaking out and looting grocery stores, and there won’t be anything left on the shelf, but a bottle of ketchup. My family can’t live on a bottle of ketchup.
This is why I was at the store: in case we have to bunker down. But because I was too freaked out about Ebola to even use a shopping cart this is what happened: I was carrying Selah on my hip, and stockpiling containers of oatmeal in my arms, like a real lunatic. But as she squirmed in my one arm, and I tried to load the oatmeal in the other—one by one, the oatmeal containers kept slipping out of my arms, and dropping onto the floor, and rolling down the aisle, picking up [I'm sure] even more viruses. Ugh!!
That’s when I realized: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold both my daughter and my fear—without dropping something.
So…I abandoned my “plan” and marched to the front of the store. And I should have left right then, but I didn’t. I stopped at the front of the store and stared at the carts. This is crazy. You are acting like a crazy person, I told myself. But in my jumbled reasoning, I kept quoting from Proverb’s, “Look to the ant.” I needed to be smart. I needed to be ready. I needed to get food for my family. So, after a giant leap of faith, and a fist full of sanitary wipes, I wiped down a cart, snapped Selah in and reverted to my mission with more Mama Bear zeal than ever. ROAR!
Now with a cart, I could carry more. So, instead of going back to the oatmeal, I went for the “dog food” size bag of rice instead. More efficient, I told myself. Then I went to the water aisle. But as I’m plopping jug after jug of water into my cart, I see that Selah is licking the cart handle. Licking it, ya’ll!
Ahh!!!??? “What are you thinking???!!!
“Selah!” I looked in her eyes. Blue and wild with wonder. “Selah, don’t do that! Okay!?”
And at this point, I’m mad. I’m mad because I can’t control it. I can’t control her. I can’t protect her from anything..really. And there is no sanitizer for tongues. Yet.
When I got to the register, all that filled my cart was: rice and water. I awkwardly loaded my giant bag of rice and tried not to make eye contact with the cashier, or anyone around us.
Once we arrived home, I carried Selah’s tired little body in my arms and laid her down in her crib for her nap. And, just like that, she fell asleep. So peaceful. Without a care in the world.
And the memory came back then, of them both slipping out of my arms. Her and the oatmeal. And the oatmeal dropping on the floor and rolling. And of not physically being able to do it. Of not being what I wanted to be for her. As her protector. As her mom.
And I felt angry and sad and helpless. Because she licks shopping carts. And because I can’t protect her. And if it’s not Ebola, it’s terrorists, or school shootings, or a rare disease, or a car accident, or bacteria in baby wipes.
And I’m wrestling with all these fears, and all these emotions, and all these questions. And I feel pushed down by them all. I just want her to be safe. I just want her fragile little girl life to be beautiful and safe and not interrupted or broken by the evil in this world. Is that so much to ask?
And suddenly I’m not just wrestling with fear. I’m wrestling with God.
I’m wrestling, and wrangling, and sweating. God, I hate it here. Why is it like this? Why is it so dangerous and ugly and risky?
And why can’t I just be her savior?
And I’m pushing all my force, and all my anger, and all my questions into Him. Where? Where God? Where can I go to get a life that is just…safe? And without pain? Or heartache? Just give me that life God! Just give her that life! Because I don’t want her to bruise, or bleed, or die..
And after too many words, and tears, I hear Him say in a voice so still and quiet, that it hushes me completely:
“Who do you say that I am?”
And it’s moments like these where I feel like Christ comes and presses my squirming, fighting body up against the wall, like a lover would, and whispers gently in my ear.
“Who do you say that I am?”
“Do you trust Me?”
“Do you know Me?”
And I’m held like this, in breathless stillness. No longer wrangling. But still. And small. And I feel His strength locking my weak frame in his arms and all I can do is weep…because I want to be held like this forever.
And here in the weakest place, He wants the places of my heart that I most fiercely protect. And I just…let Him hold me. And I let Him hold her. My sweet girl. For her life is in His hands. For she was always His first, and mine second. And I can entrust her to Him, the very One who made her, and calls her His own, to watch over her soul. The part of her that will live forever.
Our world is full of risk at every turn. John Piper says, “We cannot avoid risk even if we want to..whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways. You don’t know if your heart will stop before you finish reading this page. You don’t know if some oncoming driver will swerve out of his lane and hit you head-on in the next week, or if the food in the restaurant may have some deadly virus in it, or if some man with a rifle will shoot you at the shopping center. We are not God. We do not know about tomorrow.” —Don’t Waste Your Life, pg. 80-81
I do not say this trouble you, but to give you hope. To help you see that God holds the power of life and death. And He may not always do what is best for our physical bodies (which are temporary), but He will always do what is best for our souls (which are eternal). Whether by life, or by death. He will care for us…forever. With perfect love. In this life and the life to come.
So we don’t have to be afraid, and we can say, “Even if the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea; I shall not fear. (Psalm 46) And if an army besiege me, even then I shall be confident. (Psalm 27) And I will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness. (Psalm 91) And if I perish, I perish with hope…in the Lord.”
But no matter what happens, nothing, I say this with tears, nothing shall separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. Not angels or demons. Not the present or the future. Not hunger or famine. Not ISIS or Ebola. Not fatal car accidents or cancer. Not heart failure or anthrax. Not bombs or bullets. (Romans 8) Nothing shall separate us from His love.
And whether by living, or dying, I want to know Christ. I want to proclaim Christ, for He is the treasure in this life, and the life to come. I want to say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
For soon, and very soon,
I will stand before Him. Face to face. My own eyes will see Him. I and not another.
And He shall ask me one simple question:
Who do you say that I am?