September 1, 2019

Scared Safe

No. It isn't madness that keeps us here.

Lael Caesar

I awoke one morning in June to a desperate cry, as audible as written text can be. It was all part of someone’s Sabbath greeting to “Papa C.,” and to her sisterhood of like souls, children who claim to love Papa C.: 3,000 + appropriately sunny, smiling emojis and hearts! Children who once sat in my college classes, whose wedding ceremonies and baby dedications I have since performed, children not yet one week of years into motherhood. She wrote on the morning after Virginia Beach had become headline news for the killing of 12 people and their slaughterer. Besides “Happy Sabbath” wishes for all, her fingers blurted out her vulnerability: “Also asking for prayer! I find myself feeling paralyzed in fear when I hear of these senseless acts of violence! It keeps me from wanting to take my kiddos out anywhere, church included! So I am asking for all your loving prayers!”

I responded: “True, true, true—3k true: This ain’t no world to bring your babies to. Truth is, this ain’t no world for me, either! You want to stay here? I don’t. But my Lena-I-Love-You Lily is here. My children are here—the ones that blood and genes gave me; the other ones—all of you—that love gave me. 3K love. And I love you back all three thousand.

No. It isn’t madness that keeps us here.

“So are we confused? No. It isn’t madness that keeps us here, whether it be the madness of the massacre or the X-gamed madness of approximate self-destruction—like what’s been going on at the top of the world in the Himalayas. Fact is that those two—Virginia Beach and Mount Everest—are both, in one crucial sense, manifestations of the same thing: they are exhibitions of the choice some people feel obliged to make. For some, you think in sync with the NRA; for some, you’re recognizing a public health disaster for what it is; for some, you’re emptying your bucket, not leaving anything unchecked on your list; for others it’s inventing excitement to satisfy unsatisfiable cravings for something that can last beyond the spectacle, the gold medal, the applause, the endorsements, and the money.

Then, over against all these, there is the incredible tagline from the holy terrorist that goes off with the first bullet: “In the name of God. . . !” In the end, to the extent that any part of us is part of it, what we have and what we have become is humans making fools of ourselves to make ourselves famous.

Meanwhile, I and my loving-me-3k children are still here; Morgz and her (four!) babies, small and big, are still here. So what are we going to do in fear’s next moment when its ugly hand throttles our throat again and we almost cannot breathe, and we don’t know where to hide our hearts and the children in them?

What are we going to do? What are you going to do next time? Next time? What are you going to do now? Because the “next times” and their numbers—54 dead in Vegas; nine in Ohio; 22 in El Paso, etc., etc.—those are nothing but punctuation. The reality of the text is constant! So what are we going to do every day?

I was hoping you would ask, so I could say: “see Psalm 56:3; Isaiah 12:2; 26:3.”


Lael Caesar, Adventist Review associate editor, earnestly believes Psalm 56:3; he may feel scared, but his trust is in God.