Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Centipedes and Such

Trigger Warning: Violence & Bugs

I've been thinking about safe spaces again (here's a blog post from two years ago when I was thinking about safe spaces in another context). It all started a month ago when my car was vandalized in the middle of the night. We just moved here in July, and it's a nice place to live. It's still a nice place to live, but the spray-painted obscenities on my car got me thinking about old memories.

As we were scrubbing the paint off my car, my son said to me, "Huh. That's really strange. This never happened in our old house where I always thought we weren't safe. I thought we were safe here. I guess you just don't know." I thought that was pretty brilliant, actually. He also said all the cuss words I was thinking so I didn't have to.

I had to go preach that morning about love, so I used the vandalism in my sermon. I cleaned off the paint as best I could, and set it aside. But three days later a detective called and asked if anyone was angry with me. I realized in that moment that although I didn't think anyone was angry with me, that I was very angry with some anonymous vandal, and that the entire thing had unsettled me in unexpected ways.

I thought back to my freshman year in high school when my locker was vandalized in a similar way. Somebody had spray painted obscenities on the outside of my locker. The vice principal was sure that I had done it myself and threatened to suspend me. It was a bewildering moment, actually, as I had not noticed that my locker had been painted. 

I thought back years before that to my 4th grade year, living in Pomona, California. A girl in my school was murdered that year, along with her family. Blood spattered on the walls. The brother alone survived, his throat slit, but he survived. We talked about it in whispers when the teachers weren't listening. The little girl's name was Jessica. She was my sister's age.

I have good reason to be skeptical about safe space--from an early age I have witnessed that safe space is easily violated, boundaries poorly kept.

From Wikipedia
I was thinking the other day as I went downstairs into the basement to do my laundry how much concentration it takes to create the illusion of safe space. My son will not go into the basement because of the bugs--the spiders, the centipedes, the cave crickets, etc who reside in the basement. I've found a fair number of these creatures, and I'm not a fan either. But the laundry wouldn't fit anywhere else in the house, and I hate driving to the laundromat with quarters more, so down in the basement I go. Most of the time I just go on down the stairs without thinking about it too closely, but every now and then I am aware of the spider webs lurking overhead and the shadows flickering about. It takes everything in me at those times to nonchalantly descend the stairs and start the washer. If my children weren't watching, I just might screech and curse a bit, letting out my fear of certain death and doom by multiple centipede bites.

At least, I tell myself, I don't live in California anymore, where the black widows and brown recluses live long and prosper. At least here, in the damp northeast, one does not find scorpions in one's shoes. I know some of you will be tempted to comment on this post with the facts about poisonous spiders and creatures that DO live in the northeast, but save your breath. My illusion of safety is firmly in place, and there are no poisonous spiders in New Jersey.

The other day I heard from a church friend that a young man named Tre Lane had been murdered in Trenton, not far from a church I serve. He had been part of the Beloved Community, a church that worships in that church. I was heartbroken. I grieve for his parents. My own babies aren't so much younger.

Just to get out the door most days, I maintain an illusion of safety in this world--not that violence will not happen to me--I've had plenty in my life, frankly. But just that it won't happen today; that this won't be the moment when I step out my door and meet horror.

And then late last week another young man was carjacked in the parking lot of a grocery store where I shop. They took him a few blocks away to an apartment building, killed him, and drove away with his car, running over his body as they went.

I am astonished sometimes at the cruelty humans are capable of. And I am astonished at our vulnerability to that cruelty. You would think humans would have evolved much thicker skins--armor plating even. Like, I think I'd like to be an armadillo.

From Wikipedia

I don't know about you, but I have armor plating on the inside. I have well protected inner space where others are not so welcome. I had a spiritual director who honored that as sacred space. And so he was welcome there. One time he read Psalm 91 to me and it moved me powerfully. He died last year, and I miss him, although it had been a couple of years since we met. But always when I am drawn inward and fearful, I remember the time in his office. I remember this psalm:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,
   who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,
will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;
   my God, in whom I trust.’
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
   and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
   or the arrow that flies by day,
or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
   or the destruction that wastes at noonday. 

This month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's not always possible to find safe space, although I hope and pray each of us comes to it. I blogged a bunch last year during this month. I haven't decided what I'll do this year. My plate is pretty full, and part of finding safe space this year is stabilizing my family. But for now, here is a link to the posts I provided last year:

May each of us find peace and certainty that we are loved, even in the midst of centipedes, both real and metaphorical.


  1. Paradigm shift to help comfort you. Bugs are our friends. Balance the ecosystem and all that stuff.

    Well, it comforts me anyway.

    And I think I understand your earlier comments to me about the critical need for boundaries and perceived safety in the soul a little better now after reading this. So thanks.


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