Childhood Part III: Safety

Entering the Scene

Babies do not come into the world hoping for safety. They absolutely need it. Infants are helpless and completely dependent on others for basic care. As soon as they are born, babies form bonds with their parents, rooted in a deep love. Children are supposed to feel safe in the care of their parents.

As babies grow into small children, this dynamic does not change. Toddlers start to explore their worlds, crawling, walking, and climbing. They explore and push their boundaries. Small children can feel dangerous as they climb something new.

Anyone who has ever seen the look of mischief in a child’s eyes as they head towards adventure knows this. Though their conquest may be ‘dangerous’, they feel capable because they know mom or dad is not too far away.

My fourteen-month-old son will often look me off before attempting to climb onto the kitchen table. As he scrambles away laughing and trying to get away, I have to believe that he knows that I am not going to let him fall.

Put it this way, he is a lot bolder when I am standing next to him than he is if I walk into the room and find him halfway to the top.

Part of childhood is pushing boundaries and gaining independence. This is a good thing. As a dad, I cannot be there at every moment of my children’s lives to make sure that nothing bad ever happens to them. There will be falls, mistakes, and pain, and my job is to help my kids navigate those moments and learn from them.

Unfortunately, sometimes children are subject to harm. As discussed in my previous post, wounds are a part of life and they arrive in different ways. Each wound carries with it a message. Those messages can become entrenched over time and form part of our reality.

One of the messages that many of us receive as children is, “you are alone, and it is up to you to look after yourself.” This message or some variation of it can be delivered in many ways, but its impact can be lasting if it takes hold. The feeling of safety we come into the world experiencing is lost and leaves us chasing.

The Search for Safety

As I entered adulthood, there were some basic desires I was seeking to fulfill. I wanted a family (love), a ‘good’ job with growth potential (money), and a home (physical security).

To desire these things is not a bad thing in itself. They represent security in different forms. At their best, these things can provide us with a sense of safety.

Marriage can be the place where we can feel most ourselves and accepted by the person who knows the most about us.

A career can provide the opportunity to make a good living and receive recognition for work performed. Financial security comes in the form of a regular pay cheque. We can save that money. Having a ‘financial safety net’ is a recommendation made by most financial professionals.

Homes provide physical and psychological security. A place where we can lay our heads and feel safe from the dangers that may lurk outside our four walls.

With those three basic elements in place, most people would probably feel safe, justifiably so.

Why is it then, that even when we seem to have these things within our grasp, safety can still feel so elusive?

Yes, marriage can be a rock and a safe place. I am grateful that my marriage and family has increased my feeling of safety and security. Something constant I know I can return home to each day. Yet I am not naïve to think that families do not go through many ups and downs, some of them devastating. Marriages can break down and relationships within families can become fractured. There are no guarantees.

The same applies to our work-lives. We may feel we have a good and stable job, but that stability is fleeting, especially when global events can disrupt economies with little notice.

Safety and security can be elusive and difficult to pin down. As I reflect on the fleeting nature of safety, I am drawn to the story of Jesus, particularly this week.

Holy Week

This week, Christians around the world are celebrating Holy Week. It started this past Sunday with Palm or Passion Sunday. On this day, we commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, when he was celebrated as a king. The week continues through the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. On Good Friday we remember His crucifixion and death. From there, we look with anticipation to His rising from the dead, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

It is a sacred time in the Church.

As I reflect on the events of Holy Week as they relate to the context of human desire for safety and security, I am struck by a thought.

The Son of God was not guaranteed safety in the world. He submitted to a criminal’s death, hung on a cross.

If the Jesus could not find lasting safety in the world, how can we? If that is where the story ended, this would be a pretty depressing post.

Thankfully, the story does not end there.

As we look towards Easter, anticipation builds. As Jesus overcomes death, He becomes safety itself for us. In defeating death, Jesus offers us hope.

A Change in Perspective

As a younger man, I set out to build a safe and secure life for myself and for my family. I thought that if I could accumulate enough of the things – marriage, children, a good career, a house – that I would achieve a feeling of lasting security.

Through my own experience, I have realized that the pursuit of a lasting safety in this world is futile. Further, I am not capable of building anything lasting through my own efforts or will.

Yet it is not all gloom and doom. Within the brokenness of our world, God sent us His Son as the sole source of lasting security and peace.

This does not mean that all the trials and tribulations of life disappear when you believe in Jesus – they don’t. What does change is that we receive the grace to handle them and see beyond to the promise of something greater.

Back to the Beginning

Life is not designed for children to remain entirely dependent on their parents. We grow up and become more independent and learn. We leave the protective cover of our parents and face life on our own.

At this point, we have a choice. We can try to go it alone and build a safe life around us, hoping to avoid the tempests of life. We may even succeed for a time, but history suggests that life will eventually come knocking.

The second choice is to face life, knowing the challenges that will come at us. But to face it with complete dependence on a God who has overcome everything the world can throw at us. In an ironic twist, God calls us back, as His children, to a state of complete reliance on Him. Only there can we feel truly safe.

We are called once again to become like little children and find the Kingdom of God.

– Sean

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House Photo by Paul Kapischka on Unsplash

Tomb Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

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