Posted by: minnow | March 31, 2009

Wanna Be Safe?

According to Webster safe is an adjective meaning 1). to be free from harm or risk; unhurt 2). secure from threat of danger, harm, or loss 3). security from danger, risk, or difficulty and 4). not likely to take risks, cautious, trustworthy, reliable.
Los at Ragamuffin Soul recently wrote,” I do not want my kids to see their dad live a life where he never had to protect them. Where his faith kept him safe.” As a mom of five I have to say my first reaction to that statement was shock! What kind of tainted water is that man drinking? How dare he suggest it ever be a good thing that his children might be in danger!!! To be fair, after reading a little more I understood he was not actually saying he would purposely, unnecessarily put his children in harm’s way. Even so, after reading the rest of his blog and all of the comments I was left feeling unsettled.
I have a few questions.
First, what do we mean by safe? When we say the Church in American is too safe, what is it we are really saying? I think one of the points Los was making is that we need to move outside our buildings, that we are too comfortable, that we only seem willing to minister if we can stay in our own space and get the wounded (sinners) to come to us. And I agree. The Church absolutely needs to become intentional about going out into some of the dark places, not just overseas but in our own cities as well. At the same time, we need to be aware of what kind of light we are trying to be and what kind of risks are UN-necessary to take.
Next question, what do we mean when we talk about risk? Does it actually need to be physical danger? Or, have we sadly romanticized what it means to be defenders of the faith by suggesting danger makes what we do more valuable? In some ways the “physically dangerous” risks are easier to take. We get all kinds of moral support, people pray for us, and our adrenaline is heightened, giving us more energy and focus. And, witnessing, prayer, and living amongst the least of these is not the exception–it is the rule; it does not mess with our self-perceptions.

What do you think might happen if we were willing to take risks that involve our images instead of (or addition to) our physical safety? What if we did not always sing the right songs, listen to the right radio station, pray the right prayers, read the right books, carry the right Bible, follow the right format, use the right power point, drink the right coffee, drive the right car, sport the right bumper stickers, wear the right brands, have the right spouses, put our children in the right schools, serve the right gods? Are we willing to risk our well groomed God images in order to connect with the “wrong” people should that be the “missions” trip God wants to take us on? What kind of risk would it take to actually become friends with (as opposed to take pity on) one of the unlovely people we see walking the streets talking to themselves or hauling all their belongings in a backpack wherever they go?

I am not really trying to pick on Los at Ragamuffin Soul. I actually think his heart is in a pretty good place and he very well could be a lot farther down the risk taking path I am talking about in this blog than I am. What I am trying to say is that I believe we, in the Church, need to start looking outside our buildings. In order to do that effectively we need to examine our own lives and ask what we have not been willing to risk that is hindering our ability to make a difference (AKA be used by God). Personally, I think I would have an easier time witnessing in a soup kitchen then on some rich folk’s philanthropic committee. So you see, it really is not even a question of getting dirty so much as it is a question of being available. Am I willing to let God shape me, pour into me, and then pull out of me what He put in? Am I willing to ask God to help me examine my life and figure out what comes between the risks He wants me to take and where I happen to be standing?

The forth definition Webster gave for safe: “not likely to take risks, cautious, trustworthy, and reliable” lets us see that being safe, and seeking safety is not wrong in and of itself. The issue is not the classic image of safety vs risk we like to paint, the issue is our willingness to risk exchanging our self image for God’s image wherever that happens to take us.

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Responses

  1. Minnow

    Nice blog about risk. I think it strikes me that risk is security and maybe a mission field is not security. Maybe right here in our own back yard we can take risks

  2. Minnow,

    Thank you for taking Los’s already intrigueing post to another level by asking even more questions. You’re always good for a juicy thought!

    My brain went “whoa” when you wrote, “Or, have we sadly romanticized what it means to be defenders of the faith by suggesting danger makes what we do more valuable? ” Truth, baby, truth. Taking risks for the sake of taking risks: like Wild at Heart on steroids.

    In one sense, that kind of behavior is the same as the super-Christian who cannot say “No” or stop serving. Both are a need for approval. I think both stem from the same lie: that we are not good enough as God has made us. In fact, it feels like grasping for that approval is the very thing that makes us feel unapproved-of. The reaching creates the illusion of emptiness.

    What would the church look like if we actually lived in the ultimate safety: to know that we are good enough right here, right now? We just might get a little dangerous.

    Thanks, Minnow!

  3. Shelby–Hope you have oxygen tanks diving that deep! Teasing aside I think you hit the nail on the head. I recently said a prayer in Church that went something to the effect of: “Here I am in my sin, Lord. If You still want to use me go ahead. I sure don’t mind if You don’t mind. But, I can’t drag myself out of where I am standing right now no matter how hard I try.” What was the most amazing to me is that I actually was given several “words” for people that ended up being encouragment to them. I hadn’t experienced that in months!

  4. That prayer, so simple yet so honest, is encouragement for me right now reading it. Thank you.


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