Caleb anxiously rushed to his room. He shut his windows and drew his curtains together.
We had all heard it.
Someone was outside our gate and he was banging on it. Caleb wanted to hide and protect himself.
Had this banging noise been heard earlier in the day, Caleb would not have had this reaction. In fact, he would have bounded over to me and asked me to walk out to the gate to see what the person needed. However, it wasn’t daytime. It was almost eight o’clock. It was dark. Very dark. And unfortunately, our outside garden has not been the most secure area in recent months under the shadows of night.
The unfortunate thing is that our children are more aware than ever before of the very real and present dangers of living here in southern Africa.
I just finished one of the most difficult and tender talks I’ve ever had with our boys tonight – to help them understand something that hardly makes any sense.
Tonight, I said, “I am afraid. However, I will not live in fear.”
I shared this because Caleb and Jake are feeling anxious about all of the burglaries that have happened on our property the past seven months. It doesn’t make us feel any better to learn that three of our neighbors have also been the victims of crime on at least seven recent occasions as well.
How can I be afraid, but choose not to live in fear?
I explained this to my kids as best I could tonight.
We live in a place where we must be alert and cautious at all times. We have to pay attention to our surroundings. Who is coming? Who is going? Are they walking on or are they lingering? What are the people around me doing – do I know them – or are they strangers?
When we returned to South Africa almost two weeks ago, we discovered that the security measures around our property had been compromised. We knew we needed to take immediate action. Unfortunately, we didn’t act fast enough. On the second night of our return, we experienced another burglary.
John jumped into action the next day. As a result, Jake and Caleb observed their dad spending significant time repairing and improving our security measures before he left for Malawi. John was doing everything he could to prevent future intrusions while he was away.
Yet, John, the boys, and I know that we cannot stop anyone from getting inside. We can make their entry more difficult, but as the saying here goes, “If someone wants in, they will find a way in.”
This reality causes us to be afraid.
However, this reality does not mean we have to live in fear.
To live in fear means that we choose not to trust in the care and protection of our God. This kind of fear is both isolating and paralyzing. In addition to that, this kind of fear causes us to build walls of self-protection that shield us not only from those we want to keep out, but also from the love and care of others and actually, from God Himself.
Yet, when we live in an environment that encourages us to be fearful, we don’t feel safe.
This is where Caleb and Jake, and if I were to be completely honest with you, and I are camped at the moment.
We don’t feel safe.
We feel discombobulated.
We feel afraid.
However, as I shared with my boys tonight, we will not allow this fear to grow and cause us to miss out on the amazing adventure we have in living in South Africa! There is too much wonder to experience! There are too many people we still have an opportunity to love and learn from here! There is still joy to be unleashed in the relationships we nurture! We have the phenomenal opportunity to live in faith, with hope and in peace – despite the threats and despite the danger!
What I most want my children to know tonight and tomorrow and the day after that is that their God is with them – even when they are afraid.
It says in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them (intruders in the night), for the LORD your God goes with you (and is with you); He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
These are the words I prayed over all of my boys tonight. We will trust in our God for His care and protection. And if we become afraid, we will tell Him. We will present our fearful and anxious thoughts to our God and trust in His abiding Presence to bring us comfort and hope for tonight, tomorrow, and always. We will sleep in His peace.
We can be afraid. However, we will not fear.
Our God is near.