“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he–quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” –CS Lewis, the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
I really love that quote, the whole chapter really. I’ve often thought that one of the biggest blights on the potato of the modern Christian West is our obsession with safety. And I say that as a totally risk adverse, safety oriented person. That said, I am keenly aware that this can also be a sinful state of being, that we can build safety prisons, erect massive idols to our own fears, and encase ourselves in a bubble.
Chuckling here, but this dear pastor likes to say, “Don’t you want to take your faith to the next level? Don’t we all want to grow?” Uhm, no! I’ve been around the block a few times, I know exactly what “growth” entails. Ima gonna just hang out on my little plateau for a while. Y’all go on without me.
So you see, I actually do have a certificate in risk aversion, a credential if you will. I totally get it. I’m a bit of a comfort and safety hedonist myself. Don’t rock the boat. Wear your lifejacket. Use your hand sanitizer. Drink plenty of water. Take your vitamins.
That said, once we’ve attained our little safety bubble, we just stop living. We are a bit like plants, you’re either growing or you’re dying. There is no place of suspended animation where you can just avoid all risk and choose to not grow.
I’ve been sitting in this lockdown pondering these things, pondering the whole idea of “stay home, stay safe.” I don’t wish to sound too nihilistic or gloomy, but once you lose your job, your business, your church, and you are separated from your family, prevented from engaging in your activities, unable to innovate and create and prosper, what exactly is our purpose? What are we actually “living” for? What is the purpose of all this “safety?”
Life is messy and dangerous, it comes with great risk, it is uncomfortable, and sometimes quite painful. There is often a bunch of suffering involved. Jesus came to give us life and life abundant…..not safety. He didn’t promise us a risk free existence. In fact, the precise opposite, He promised us trouble and grief. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
I am exasperated, frustrated, aggravated, by much of Western Christianity in general. I have been for a long time. We often look just like the world! We are like tenured pew sitters or members of the rotary club or something. Comfortable Christians, Christians for the sake of safety, political safety, social safety, and cultural and relationship safety. And certainly Christians so we will be safe from our own feelings.
We people were deliberately designed for risk, for challenge, for danger. Seriously! You wouldn’t know it in our modern world full airbags, anti bacterial wipes, and pills for every imaginable discomfort, but it’s the truth. When we are unable to channel our need to conquer, our drive to take risks, to innovate and create in positive ways, we simply find outlets in negative ways. Drugs, alcohol, crime. Porn, prescription drugs, hook up culture, adultery, you name it, we’ll find it. Tragically, a good chunk of us don’t even know what we’re looking for. That’s why we call it being “lost.”
“Safety” is actually deadly for human beings. Too much “safety” tends to create some real life threatening situations because we are forced to try to suppress our own biology, our own design, forced to deny who we are inside, even shamed and taught that it’s wrong to desire such things.
I talked a woman the other day having her morning vodka and orange juice. That’s a quarantini. Do you know how much day drinking has been brought on by this whole quarantine thing? A ton. It’s a huge issue. Our spirits know when something is all wrong and we often seek to anesthetize ourselves from the truth, from the things we falsely believe we are powerless to do anything about.
The pursuit of safety is not life and life abundant, it is not what Jesus taught us, and it is not a desirable state of being. It is also contrary to human biology and there are consequences to pursuing it.