Living at the convergence of faith and art.

What’s Safe About Life?

It’s 4:30AM again and I’m up and tired. My eyes burn, and my heart’s full, and I wanna be making art to share it all. I wanna be asleep and feeling safe and at peace. Safe, what’s that?

As I got to my little temporary desk down here in the dining-room I saw that my Bible was open. I just read a psalm claiming that God is our fortress, yet I know life for the uncertain experience it really is. What do I mean when I ask for safety? It reminds me of the scene from CS LewisChronicles of Narnia, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the children first find out that their help is a huge lion. One of the children asks Mr. Beaver, “Is he safe?” To which Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Of course he’s not safe!” Lewis is describing the God in whom our own safety rests.

In those words, and in life’s experiences, I realize that maybe my perception of safety is a far cry from God’s. My idea is that when God promises to protect us then He’ll protect us from all forms of fear, harm, and evil; that we won’t get into a car accident, or die of cancer, or get robbed. We’ll be safe. As far as I know, I’ve rarely known safety, even in God’s arms.

In my youth, I was been moved three times without question or warning. I’ve lived on the edge of life nearly falling off most everyday. When I have even an hour where no one’s going to bother me, ask of me, or redirect me, I treasure the time of peace and quiet; I feel safe. My beloved bride, Emily often tries to reassure me that I’m safe; that together we’ll weather whatever comes along next. For all I know, this lack of feeling safe is why I’m not working harder at getting some art made; perhaps I am just a bag of excuses after all.

I think safety with God is more an eternal idea. Rick Warren in his masterwork, A Purpose Driven Life puts forth just such an idea; we’re made for eternal purposes, and he advises us, on good evidence, to think that way. This life is only the beginning of our life. All of us, believer and unbeliever alike, are spiritually immortal. We’re going to continue living somewhere, even after our bodies die. For the Believer, our relationship with God will go on forever. Perhaps that’s all the safety God offers any of us right now, in this life on earth.

If a robber were to enter our home and kill all of us, we’d still be safe in God’s arms in Heaven. The murder doesn’t matter. If we’re hit and killed in a car accident, our mangled deaths don’t matter, and aren’t a tragedy simply because we know Christ as Savior and God as sovereign. We’ll live with Him in Heaven. If we go bankrupt, become homeless, and starve to death behind a dumpster somewhere, God promises to be there going through it with us, and once we’re dead, we live forever in His presence in Heaven. Eternal life in Heaven seems to be our true safety.

I think this sense that I lack safety has robbed me of most of my peace – and my joy for that matter. As I said, there’s so much of my life in which, though I’ve taken the initiative and worked my tail off at it, the boat of my life has still gone over the waterfall and crashed on the rocks below. Some would say, “Well, you’re still here! (smile, smile, smile). Why, when I’ve done little or nothing to ask for it, do I get kicked like this? Is this life, or is there more?

My recent readings, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, right here – right now, is telling me yes, there is more, and it’s not just about dying and going to heaven. That’s perhaps the greatest gift of having just read Philip Yancey’s book, Soul Survivor: How I survived the Church.

In that book he speaks of his own injurious experiences with a very toxic church, and how it set him on a personal journey of recovery. He shares his relationship with thirteen people, both living and dead, mostly through their own writings, and how he found great comfort, truth, and healing. The core idea he shares is this; God is sovereign, and though life seems to go south on the surface, He is there with us having already saved us on the cross. He is there with us in the moments of right now, holding us up, comforting us, even though we’re in emotional, mental, and physical pain. He cares, and takes the trip with us. What He does not seem to do is keep us out of trouble; that’s not part of the picture – and deal making is not something He responds to; no deals.

If life’s got cancer, then it’s cancer and He’s there through the hell of it all. If life’s dishing up bankruptcy, then that’s the journey, and He’s right there in the thick of it. I get the notion that God’s a lot like a ground-guide at an airport; you know, the guys with the flashlights who wave them around cryptically guiding the airplane to its parking spot at the terminal. The pilot cannot see the ground near, or even under the nose of the plane, and having someone on the ground waving a guiding light solves the problem. God’s got lights and asks us to follow them, in faith, right the way through the challenge.

It hurts when sin visits our lives; sometimes it’s physical; sometimes it mental or emotional, but maybe it ought not be quite so painful spiritually simply because God’s in the midst of whatever’s going on. Our bodies may scream in agony. Our minds may shriek in terror. Our hearts may feel leaden and beat much faster. But perhaps our spirit should know that somehow, someway, even if it means physical death, that because Jesus went before us, suffered agonies far greater than most of us will ever suffer, that once and for all time, His gift will allow us to live in peace and safety in God’s Kingdom.

Battle hurts. War is hell. Life smells both sweet and sour. But God is there though all of it whispering, like a comforting parent to an injured child, “I’m right here. It’s going to be alright. We’re going to get through this. I’ve already taken care of everything. You don’t have to worry. Trust me. I love you!”

Happy Easter / 2010


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