I have been involved in two car accidents when I was the driver. The first was a minor fender-bender when I was still a teen, an accident which was partly if not wholly my fault. The only question it made me ask was, “How can I be a better driver?” There was little mental anguish or turmoil.
The second was an accident that happened because I lost traction on an Alaskan road still in at least the partial throes of winter. The second accident was by far the harder to deal with mentally. The message wasn’t that I needed to be a more careful driver, though I certainly heard that. The message was that the road itself could turn against me, betray me. The always-safe-if-I-watch-myself world of driving suddenly revealed a menacing side, a hidden set of fangs. I could be bit at any time. It was a struggle to regain a joy in driving during winter, though I did.
My struggle was the same as those in West Virginia who survived a period of devastating floods. Social psychologists interviewed many and noted that people who survive natural disasters lose something far more devastating than home and property. They lose their sense that the world is a safe place. Such people ask, “Can I trust the world again? Can I go to sleep at night and not worry about being swept away? Do I live in a livable world or in one unlivable?”
And I’m happy to note that the psychologists realized that those fears are not easily removed and that the questions are in fact spiritual questions.
“Do I live in a livable world?” is precisely such a question. The world is not safe. Bears walk the woods; sharks swim the oceans. Many a community struggles with the rage of out-of-control fires. My parents live in Florida and watch the skies for hurricanes. My wife’s parents live in Oklahoma and scan the clouds for tornadoes. And despite thousands of law suits to the contrary, the world is not safe and accidents remain out of our control. Is the world livable?
Those who find God answer with an unequivocal “yes.” It is not safety that makes the world livable; it is the nearness of God. It is not certainty that allows one to wake up in the morning. It is purpose and hope and above all the realization that we are not alone. In the Bible the singer hums in a dark place to God “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” Psalm 23:4. The singer recognizes that danger is all around but he doesn’t long for perfect protection. He longs for perfect presence, the presence of God.
Do I live in a livable world? The answer doesn’t depend on where I live or on what safety precautions I take. It simply depends on who I live with.
Rick Cupp is minister at the Kenai Fellowship, Mile 8.5 Kenai Spur Highway. Sunday Bible classes at 10 a.m., Worship at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday meal and worship 6:15 p.m.