Safe

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To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. C.S. Lewis

Jack, Lucy and I were walking across a busy intersection.  There were cars everywhere. Lucy, moody, screamed when Jack tried to hold her hand across the street, so he shrugged and started to dart away.

No, No, Jack. I said sternly.  You must hold somebody’s hand.  Its more important to be safe right now than…

He interrupted. More important than God?

Wait, what?

You are blowing my mind right now, 5 year old.

Just a thrown away comment, innocently dropped from curious, child-lips because his manic mommy is always talking about God.  But…….What a question.

Do we not often believe that safety and God are somehow in conflict with one another? Unless you have been living under a rock in this rubble-world, of course you do. I actually have evidence to back up that claim….

A woman whose body is riddled with cancer. It is eating her alive and she will leave behind a baby she will never know as a woman.

My sweet friend who lost her husband in the Haiti earthquake, leaving behind two small adopted boys: fatherless before he secured them, fatherless now.

Another precious friend, pregnant with twin girls, birthed them on a hospital toilet, alone in the middle of the night, screaming, and watched them die in her arms a few moments later.

Another beautiful lady, raising three children in a lifeless home as her husband drifts farther and farther from her heart, admitting to affairs but not confessing his own culpability, blaming her for his disloyalty.

And your story, your evidence.  And mine.

God is not safe.  Safety is more important than God.

Don’t we live like that?  Don’t we huddle in our own cocoons, holding hands as we cross the big-wide-world-street, dodging cars, eyes shifting back and forth as we gingerly make our way through the frightening uncertainty of our fractured world?  What makes you feel safe here, on this spinning planet that you were not made for?

(…the most probable explanation is that we were made for a better world.  C.S. Lewis.)

What is it?  Could be anything, really.  Tight control, wild carelessness, relational dysfunction, addiction, hard heartedness, pride, anger, dissociation, perfectionism, running away, habitual lying, romanticism – the possibilities are endless.

Mine used to be lying. I was an expert at hiding anything that would expose my failure. Giving up my illusion of deception-safety was like surgery without anesthesia. God insisted on it (unsafe), but releasing the bondage-knots from its grip on me, body and soul, was more painful than I could have ever imagined. So much loss. So much exposure. So much judgment and blame and ugliness. So unsafe.

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis (who, if you cannot already tell, is my favorite author) tells the story of ghosts who lurk outside of the entrance to heaven while on “field trips” from hell. Saints come to visit these ghosts, offering them a second chance at redemption, but they must lay down their idols. Their safety. One ghost carries a lizard on his shoulder, a symbol of degraded lust, who whispers dark fantasies in his ear. His safety, his illusion of safe passage through hell. A saint tells him the truth – that he can be free of his perverted companion in the shining country, but the ghost must let the saint kill the lizard. The ghost agonizes, then agrees. The saint breaks the lizard’s back and it is so painful that the ghost believes the blow has killed them both. But the lizard’s twisted body begins to change, reform. It becomes a beautiful strong stallion, and the scene ends with the ghost transformed into a saint, riding his redeemed lust, which has now become True Love, into heaven.

I believe that is happening to me.

I am experiencing reformation – as the Lord has broken the back of the stronghold that twisted me into a dark maze. I deceived only insofar as I was deceived.  The exposure of my safety-illusion was like a death, and I experienced the fulfillment of the fears that had crippled me for long years. But, you see, I was made for a better world. I was made for Truth, and lies cannot carry me into my world, any more than a lizard can carry a ghost into the shining country.

I remember the day I realized I was safe. It was less than a week after I had been exposed for lying to my pastor. I was at a friend’s home, explaining, stumbling, over my plight. The truth sizzled into my frantic brain like a lightning bolt on a dry summer night.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:18.

In that moment, sin exposed, discipline and rejection certain, relationships I treasured crumbling in pieces around me, fears I had held at bay closing in on me like a collapsing roof, I was more safe than I had been in many years. Because I was in the Light. Would I see it as punishment, or, an opportunity? An adventure. A new beginning. I was glaringly aware of my sin. I was deeply, passionately repentant. I was committed to removing its sticky bondage. I was experiencing mercy and agape-love when I did not deserve it and everyone knew I did not deserve it. I was in the Word hours every day, seeking truth to comfort my breaking heart. I was loved by a merciful savior, embraced by Him. I was safe, after a very long time, because I was finally, excuse my blunt idiom, dealing with my shit. Perfect love casts out fear. I trust the God who made a way for me through that.

Because you have depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. from Isaiah 30:12-15

In the calm years, the rebuilding years, I have seen my redemption. I see the God Who Sees Me. Like the ghost-saint, I am carried by Truth instead of lies. I belong in the shining country and my Reformation, made possible through what He carried for me on that Golgotha-Cross, will carry me there. I am safe.

Safety needs to be redefined.

What the answer is for you, I do not know. Well, let me rephrase that. I may not know what the answer is, but I do know who He is.

But, remember, He’s not a tame lion.  C.S. Lewis.

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