I just returned from a ministry trip along the northern coast of California. I was driving through Eureka and stopped at a supermarket to buy some food when something strange took place. Before I share the story, I need to give you some background.
While driving along the coast, I noticed tsunami-warning signs were posted everywhere. I was advised when I was entering a low area susceptible to a tsunami and when I was leaving. These coastal communities are aware of a tsunami threat and have made appropriate preparations.
I did some research on the subject and the warning is a real deal. A 700-mile long fault line called the Cascadia Subduction Zone is about 50 miles offshore and runs north from Eureka, California along the coastline of northern California, Oregon, and Washington and into parts of southern Canada. When the Cascadia Subduction Zone ruptures, as it has done many times in history, it will produce a 9.0+ earthquake that will shake the Pacific Northwest with devastating results and produce a tsunami that will decimate the coastal communities.
Back to the supermarket. While shopping, I was enjoying some classic rock music being played over the in-house sound system. A song came on that unbeknownst to me had a loud siren playing in the musical score that sounded just like a tsunami siren warning people to flee to higher ground. I noticed the other shoppers weren’t responding. They just kept shopping as if life was normal. I started to move toward the exit of the store and out the front door when the song ended and another song came on. It wasn’t a real tsunami warning. It was only a soundtrack mimicking the real thing. I tried to quietly return to my abandoned shopping cart as cool, calm and collected as I could without looking too foolish.
That experience taught me something. While traveling along the coast with the knowledge that an event like the rupture of the Cascadia Subduction Zone is a reality, it offers a person two choices. One, which I did, was to pray the Shalom of God over the coast and the fault line. The other was to manage the subtle fear that wanted to come and paralyze me so that I would miss the beauty of God’s creation and live on edge 24/7 while on the trip. We can get so wrapped up in preparing to exit a potential threat to life that we miss living in the beauty of the moment.
The reason the people in the store were not moving toward the exit when the siren in the song was playing was that they knew what a real warning siren sounded like. They were free to enjoy an afternoon of shopping. To them, it was just a song. To me, it was the approach of disaster.
In the end, we all need to be prepared for the potential outcomes of life, but not allow our preparation to morph into a paranoia that can cause us to live in a mindset of perpetual fear. Fear is a thief who robs us of our peace. Plan your life-strategy to keep safe. Always have an escape route to get to the higher ground of God’s peace when danger comes. Have a spiritual go-bag filled with the essentials of your faith packed and ready to grab when a real-life emergency comes and you have to move fast. Do all you need to do to be prepared to take action should you be faced with an event beyond your control, but never live in that preparation as a prisoner bound in the shackles of fear. That would truly be the greater disaster.