Following our second full week in school, I looked forward to a lesson-free Saturday spent at my friend’s house. The plan? To turn my very mzungu hair into a braided piece of artwork. I woke up without an alarm clock, enjoyed a slow morning, and casually walked over to her house a little past noon.
After spoiling me with a tasty lunch, I sat in a chair, and her fingers got to twisting. We talked about life in Kenya and America, sang to music played on a cell phone, and interacted with the numerous visitors who walked through her doors. Thanks to my full head of hair, I quickly realized that it was going to be a lengthy process!
About 4 hours and 4 dozen braids later, I had transformed from majority-American to majority-Kenyan.
By that time, the sun was lowering in the sky, so she and another friend accompanied me back to my house. As I fixed a simple dinner for us, I noticed a message from a friend waiting for me online. Something about gunmen and Nairobi. Shocked, I assured her of my safety and quickly looked for more information.
What came up on google horrified me- unfolding terror within a mall in the capital city. Masked assailants loaded with every sort of weaponry taking aim at innocent people. Dozens killed and many trapped. Many fleeing, but also many maimed by the flying metal. The terrorists still wreaking havoc inside.
The stark contrast grabbed me. Here I sat in a tranquil environment, when in my same country, people sat hidden, praying to find a moment to sit in safety. I had eaten my lunch, interrupted only by visitors and shared company, while others had eaten their lunch, interrupted by grenades and hatred. As I walked by Muslims and Christians and traditionalists all doing life together, individuals were being targeted for their lives in the name of religion.
For days, the world was captivated by the headlines of the on-going siege. We hung on to every update, waiting for the much anticipated news that the attackers were either killed or in custody. But the sigh of relief was only brief following the end, for the damage was deep and many questions remained. What exactly happened inside? How could this atrocity occur? What about those who are missing?
The flag at school flies at half-mast following the attack
It’s hard for me to not wonder if the roles had been reversed. I had been in Nairobi only the month previously, and during that time, had spent a long Sunday afternoon in a mall picking up groceries for the coming term. What if they had decided to strike then? What if I had been in the check-out line when explosions suddenly ripped through the air?
But these questions aren’t just limited to people within the developing world. Rather, they are ones that anybody could ask, as even last year, gunmen entered malls, movie theaters, and even elementary schools in America.
And frankly, the questions are never done being asked.
Any of us could be going about our daily lives when we unexpectedly find ourselves lurched into the middle of the world’s next tragedy. It’s a sobering thought, to come to terms with the fact that our own security is out of our reach. And that thought brings to mind a verse that both encourages and challenges me.
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matthew 10:28]
Really? Don’t fear the person who points an automatic weapon in my direction with his finger on the trigger? Don’t fear the drunk who gets behind the wheel? Don’t fear the person who lurks in the dark, waiting for a moment of power?
In an unsecure world, where can we find our security?
The answer comes as sure as the sunrise in the morning. As clear as the night sky over the desert. As resounding as the blasts on that fateful day.
Security is found in the God of the Bible, who is loving and faithful and sovereign.
As terrifying as those scenarios seem, that verse couldn't speak more truth. With our security found in God, this life is only the beginning. When we die, whether by natural or man-caused reasons, Christians know that we will begin an eternal time of joyous being with our Lord. No person or event can take away our relationship with God, and as a result, cannot take away our true security. Rather, we should fear Satan, who works to convince people that they don’t need God, and works to destroy the faith of those who do believe. A human can destroy our body, but cannot touch our soul. If we die apart from God, then Satan is privy to both our body and soul.
In our raw moments, we might admit that even this knowledge feels empty. When bullets stop hearts or when disease tears through a body or when a mind is born malformed God doesn’t seem loving or in control. And when we don’t understand or can’t understand, I must compel myself to remember that God has a much farther-reaching perspective than I do. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” [Isaiah 55:8-9]
But God doesn't allow circumstances and then force you to deal with the consequences alone. Using the same analogy, the psalmist declares that that is absolutely not the case. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.” [Psalm 103:11]
I know that the God who created the world and has formed every child in his mother’s womb, deeply loves each individual on this earth and desires to be in a personal relationship with every single one. I know that He, who knows us to our depths and yet still pursues us, has promised good for anyone who follows Him. I know that the One who authors both blessing and hardship has won the ultimate victory so that we can share in that with Him for eternity.
None of us can ever guarantee our livelihood. Our life is short and passing, regardless of whether we live to be 100 years or only 25. We can’t determine when we will take our last breath. Before we do, in whom will you place your trust?
[Note: Nobody within AIM was injured or killed within the attack, although some families were initially trapped inside, and many had friends who were affected. Please continue to pray for peace within this country, for comfort of those who have physical, emotional, or psychological wounds, and for the truth of the gospel to penetrate hearts and minds as a result of this tragedy.]