In a few weeks we depart on an epic family vacation that has taken us almost four years to plan and save for. It is the culmination of persistence and hard work and great blessing as well as a particular approach to education and life.
But in the past few weeks there have been multiple reports of terrorist attacks throughout Europe. Paris. Dusseldorf. London. Not all places that we plan to visit, but reminders that there are dangers to this type of education for our children and for ourselves. I don’t believe that the world is a fundamentally more dangerous place today than it has been in times past. But our ability to know instantaneously what is happening across the globe certainly affects our way of looking at the world and the people in it.
On a regular basis people in town here die on a particular highway just outside of town. I don’t drive it often but there are times that I do and I think about the fact that it is a notoriously dangerous stretch of road. Sometimes I opt to take the longer way around, but sometimes I don’t. Life is full of risks and dangers. Ones close to home somehow seem less ominous than those far away, where we’ll be guests and visitors rather than locals and residents.
Our children have to learn to balance fear and life. They have to learn to make the best decisions possible given the available data. They have to recognize that there are no guarantees of a happily-ever-after. Every day there are people just like us who become statistics out of no fault of their own. It is not what I wish for myself or my children or those people, but it is a reality of this broken, sin-infested world. We have to learn to handle the statistics and the fear they create if we hope to live.
I believe that ultimately, this means that we have to learn to look death in the face and acknowledge it. We are taught to avoid thinking about death, regularly coddled and swaddled in assurances that if we just do the right things, good things will follow and bad things will stay away. But this isn’t necessarily true. Certainly we can and should make good decisions. But sometimes those decisions don’t protect us from the variable, the random, the unknown, the unpredictable. And those things can kill.
It’s possible to be run down by a terrorist in a foreign city just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I also know people who get hit by distracted drivers right here in town. These things happen. I have to acknowledge that this is a possibility and then determine whether or not to get out of bed in the morning, or drive on the freeway, or fly across an ocean, or find my way through lands where I don’t speak the language. I have to decide whether those things are important enough to my wife and children to expose them as well. And I have to be able to live with my decision, whether we return from an amazing, life-altering but fundamentally safe trip, or whether some or all of us never return.
I can face death and reality through my faith that death has been defeated by the God who created everything. I rest that faith on the historically accurate material contained in the Bible. It tells me some things that are hard to believe. But it also tells me other things that plenty of people assumed weren’t true or real, only to be proved wrong. Incredulity is not a reliable means of determining truth. I trust the accounts of people 2000 years ago who saw a dead man raised to life and then raised to heaven with the promise to return. I trust that my life and my children are not accidents of chance and time, that we have meaning and purpose beyond mindlessly perpetuating genetic code, and that our lives don’t end in a plane crash or a terrorist’s explosion. We don’t go out looking for these things. We try to avoid them. But we recognize that if they should find us, we are together in the hands of the God who brought us into existence and has promised to sustain us for eternity.
So we’ll keep finalizing plans. We’ll keep assembling the final elements for our trip. Shoes and jackets and fleeces all crammed into carry-on luggage to sustain us on an adventure that will require us to face down death. That is the adventure that every single one of us is on, ultimately. Not a matter of if but when and how. I’m ready. I’ll do my best to make sure my children are ready. And I’m always prepared and willing to talk to anyone – even you – who want to be ready as well.