The Idol of Safety

Originally at:

by Tammy Ruiz

Those calls a mother dreads. I have received a number of them in the past few weeks. “Mom, I was hit by a car while riding my bike;” “My financial aid package may not go through;” “Tonight I might be arrested.” Sometimes I think my fears feel magnified being a soul-surviving parent. The days of me being able to keep them close and safe are over and for many moms that idea is terrifying, which is why I want to talk about it.

Why, you could ask, might your son have been arrested? (As dozens of moms scramble to assure themselves that what ever I type next will be a situation their child will never be in). He was in a protest against the maltreatment of the poor in a city where he lives in a Catholic Worker community.

I learned the next day that their protest was successful, that the changes they were bringing attention to were approved and arrests were not made. I did, however get into my lonely bed knowing my son could be in a cell before morning. This reminded me very much of a situation I learned a great deal from a few years ago.

My oldest son was involved in a very active youth pro-life ministry, “Stand True”, which eventually became an arm of Priests for Life. My son was only 16 but mature and working with good mentors and older activists with whom I felt he was safe. They planned a trip (to a city I considered gritty and dangerous) to protest outside of a Planned Parenthood, and as a mom who had never let one of her kids do something like that before, the idea of the trip frightened me.  I began to pray for my son “please God, keep my son safe”, “please God keep my son safe” over and over again.

I spent nary a moment thinking of the goals of the trip, who needed to hear their message or what they might accomplish. I was laser focused on MY son being SAFE.

I will share that in my prayer life, I feel fortunate to often feel or hear “answers” come when I’m obedient in listening to the still, soft voice that can speak to us in a way we know it is the Holy Spirit. Mostly the feelings I get are loving and encouraging, but for the first time, upon the (perhaps) 732nd petition of “please keep my son safe,” I felt an admonition to stop my petition.  What I “heard” was not what I expected: “you need to pray for his effectiveness, not his safety”. Gulp.

I had been so wrapped up with my goal to keep him safe I forgot that anything else was at stake. I was crippling his mission and vocation with my selfish need to get what I wanted. Granted, there is nothing WRONG with having your child safe, but spreading the Gospel and serving humankind is simply NOT safe.

Why would we think that we would be any different from Christians who came before us?  The brave Saints who suffered – they had mothers too. Additionally, Christopher Columbus, the first astronauts, missionaries who went off to foreign lands – none of them were safe and they all had mothers.

As a culture we have become obsessed with safety over the past 30 years or so. It’s so pervasive that we don’t even realize it. While it makes sense to protect wee ones from hurting themselves and not invite disaster with foolish decisions, making safety an idol that we consider before anything else as our kids become adults is a mistake.

We need to raise our kids to be capable and strong. To be Saints, they will eventually have to engage in the “battles” at hand. When the time comes, our very difficult developmental task is to let them. How hard it must have been for the Blessed Mother to know for so long that a sword of grief would eventually pierce her heart.

I have never sent a child to war. I have never sent a child medical missionary to a disease stricken country. I respect parents who have released their children into the world to do brave and dangerous things. My experiences in this arena has been introductory perhaps, but I feel like I have earned the right to elevate this topic for discussion.

I sometimes fear that our cultural obsession with safety will become shortsighted and selfish like my perception of my son’s mission trip to gritty city streets. Our instinct to protect our children is a good thing, and it surely has its place, but we need to make sure that we prepare them and release them for the moments when God will use them.

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