Security measures can make a place feel less safe

Published 9:53 am Friday, October 18, 2013

By the Rev. Katie Fick
Hayward and Trondhjem Lutheran Churches

Recently I traveled to Kenya and South Sudan. This was not my first trip to Africa, but one thing that struck me again as I traveled was the level of security in both public and private places. Going to the mall or to the grocery store? Expect to see security personnel with assault rifles walking around as you eat your breakfast or shop for supplies. Spending the weekend at home? Your home, if you can afford it, will be gated with a tall wall surrounding it topped with razor wire. And there will be guards, all the time. That’s just the way things are. I have spoken about this with some African immigrants in our area, who were amazed when they came to the United States that in most places you can just walk right up to someone’s front door. I am always fascinated when I get to speak with people from other cultures and compare what we think is normal.

Since I am not used to such security, I found that it made me feel less secure. I felt uncomfortable having people with guns around all the time. I mentioned it to one of the people I was staying with and she said she found all the security “oppressive.” All these things designed to protect us, perhaps necessarily so, had the effect of making us feel less safe.

What makes you feel safe? I don’t feel I need a wall around my house, but I do feel the need to lock my doors. Safety isn’t all about home security, though — how much money do you need so you feel secure? How much food? Fear and safety are very powerful drivers in our lives.

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Where does God fit in to all of this? Over and over again in the Old Testament God forgives the people of Israel and renews God’s relationship with people, even though God gets deeply hurt in the process. God remains faithful in the face of human unfaithfulness. Jesus did not exactly play it safe in his life — he risked everything for the sake of his ministry, for our sake. The disciples did much of the same thing; the book of Acts has stories of the apostles being beaten and imprisoned and killed for the sake of the gospel. None of this sounds safe to me.

Sooner or later the things we rely on to keep us safe in this life let us down. But we can trust in the God who risked everything for us, who cares deeply for us, and who, no matter what happens to us, never lets us go.