“Mark Yourself as Safe”

Greetings from the heart of Houston, and the heart of Hurricane Harvey. For the past […]

Carrie Willard / 8.29.17

Greetings from the heart of Houston, and the heart of Hurricane Harvey. For the past few mornings, I’ve woken up, glanced at my phone and the multiple flash flood warnings that came through overnight, and scrolled through a few dozen pictures of whatever fresh hell visited my city the night before. Then, I write some post for family and friends from all over the country who are worried about us: “Checking in as safe, dry and grateful in Houston this morning.” We have been spared the worst of the devastation in our little pocket of Houston. Our house has not taken on any water, and the electricity has stayed on. Our water is still safe to drink. We haven’t even had an interruption in our internet service. We have plenty of food and supplies, and we have not had to leave our nest, nor should we, according to local officials. We want to help our neighbors, but we also don’t want to be one more party of people to be rescued. We are extremely fortunate, and we are continually reminded of just how fortunate we are.

Each morning, when I check in on social media, Facebook asks me to mark myself as “safe” in Hurricane Harvey. My thumb has hovered over that “mark me as safe” button dozens of times this week, but I can’t quite do it. The storm isn’t over yet, and marking myself as officially “safe” feels a bit like tempting fate. We don’t feel particularly safe, despite several days and nights of safety. We are on edge.

I struggle with this, this being an anxious Christian during anxious times. When Jesus calmed the raging seas in the storm in the fourth chapter of Mark’s gospel, he chided his disciples for their anxiety. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I feel for those anxious seafarers, because everything in their life experience had taught them to be afraid. Geez. When I think of that storm, it helps me to remember the storm raging inside of Jesus on the night before his crucifixion, when he wanted his disciples to stay awake with him. When anxiety reached him, he also did not want to be alone.

My nine-year-old son, who by traditional measures has reached the magical “age of reason,” is smart enough to have figured out that big things are happening with the hurricane and related weather events in Houston. He was supposed to have his first day of school this Monday, and it’s been delayed until at least next Tuesday. We can protect him from a lot of information, but he knows what a tornado warning is, and why we have to stay in a windowless room every time a tornado has been spotted in the area. He asked me through tears one night, “When can we quit worrying?”


In my world, that’s a big fat “never.” But I can’t exactly tell a nine-year-old that at bedtime.

This storm will pass, but there will be more storms. Some illnesses pass, and some don’t, but feeling crummy is also sometimes part of the human condition. (On top of the hurricane, we’ve also had impetigo, strep and an ear infection this month. Good Lord, deliver us.) Are we ever really safe?

These are not things to tell one’s elementary school aged children. Instead, we tell them about the times we’ve survived other storms. We read in the Psalms about how We – capital W – have survived more than storms in the past. We tell them about the preparations we’ve made for this storm, and how we’re prepared to help those who haven’t been as fortunate as we’ve been. We tell them about the communion of believers all over the world who are praying for us and with us. Then, we turn to the Book of Common Prayer, the poetry and lyrics of my childhood.

We pray together:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all of your love’s sake. Amen.

And this:

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We pray in a prayer called The General Thanksgiving:

We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all of your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace and for the hope of glory.

And so, we remind ourselves that we have already been marked as saved, even if we aren’t feeling particularly safe at the moment. And so, we will check in again, day after day, as grateful, loved, and saved.