When I became a parent, I thought a lot about my children’s safety, as one would expect. All the things out in the world that could harm them. All the things in the house that could harm them. There was always pain out there, there was danger, and there was the danger of being in pain. But nothing kept me up nights more than the specter of my children being afraid.
I could never stop them from being in pain. There were “owies” and even “red owies” (owies that bled) all around, especially as they began to explore their world. Pain happens. I could try to minimize and heal, but pain is part of life experience– if you sense, you feel pain.
Fear was something else to me, and maybe it was because I had many terrors as a child. I still don’t like being afraid – scary movies, books, posters, even book covers. I went around the house turning magazines over, and there was even an album cover I didn’t like because the picture on the front was creepy. Any time I heard about the unspeakable agony of a missing child, all I kept thinking about was how scared that sweet baby (of any age) would be. It made me stop breathing.
The terror of the hundreds of girls who were kidnapped last month in Nigeria is what stops my breath now. This is the very essence of terror – in the dark, all of a sudden, being taken out into the night by unknown beings; living a nightmare. There is no peace in their land, and that’s what the Torah says is required before one can lie down unafraid. Peace flows into living without fear. Those parents can only imagine their daughters’ terror, and whatever they can imagine is probably pretty close to reality. Parents’ imagination runs wild with fear, too.
It took too long for Nigeria to accept help, and for other nations, including our own, to offer it. I honestly don’t know what is to be done to rescue those girls and their families – for both are experiencing the terror – but I do know that silence is terror’s ally. My friend Rebecca saw this far earlier than I did, and she never stopped shouting, sharing, and posting until others took notice.
The cure for terror is light. With the lights on, you can see that the scary monsters are gone. If they were there after all, like thieves in the night, at least the light will make them easier to vanquish. With the lights on, terror will have no place to hide.
This section of Torah continues with other blessings; the land w
ill be fruitful, and the food will be plenty. In Torah language, these blessings come from obeying God’s commandments, and staying in relationship with holiness.
This idea, that with peace, you can lie down and not be frightened, is where it all begins. Without fear, you can build. Without fear, you can plan. Without fear, you can envision a different future. These girls were trying to do that, but the darkness and the terror took that away. The land is not at peace, so the people lie down in fear.
May these young women, who never saw themselves as heroes, only girls who wanted to learn and know, be found quickly and returned to some kind of healing peace and love, so they may lie down and no one will ever terrify them again.