Sometimes when we hear Him calling, it’s a little scary, isn’t it? A few weeks ago, a teacher at our church talked about how if we’re being honest, sometimes deep down, we don’t really want to draw near to Him, because we’re afraid of the consequences. Even Jesus tells us to count the cost of following Him. It isn’t as if when one decides to be a Christ-follower, life suddenly becomes easy and clear and you get the Mercedes you always wanted.
To be honest, I used to live as though the main point about being a Christian was to be moral and good. Like a doctor taking his Hippocratic oath, we Christians were to “Do no harm,” and other than that, life could go on however we wished. The pictures of Jesus in our Sunday School classrooms served to drive this point home, for in them, Jesus always appeared pretty tame. He looked like a normal enough guy, certainly not like someone who would be the source of trouble and disruption.
But something about those pictures wasn’t quite accurate, because the more I try to follow him, the more I realize He isn’t normal or tame at all, really. He’s revolutionary. It reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in the Chronicles of Narnia. (I’m roughly paraphrasing here, for I don’t have the books with me.) Upon seeing Aslan, the Lion, for the first time, Lucy fearfully asks Mr. Beaver, “Is he tame? Is he safe?” Mr. Beaver’s disconcerting response is, “Of course he isn’t! But he is good!”
I sort of wish some of those Sunday School classroom pictures would have portrayed Jesus turning over the money-lender’s tables instead of demurely staring off into the distance waiting for kingdom come. How he came to be associated with trivial things like not dancing, not drinking, and wearing long skirts is beyond me. Because, in the end, he is the Savior who was called a glutton and a drunkard, and as far as I can tell, he never cared much about the length of a woman’s skirt. Instead he hung out with women of questionable repute, inviting them into His Kingdom.
Instead of getting wrapped up with these trivial things that so often plague the Church, Jesus keeps calling us up… up to a higher place, but like climbing a mountain, it’s HARD to go up. The lives we might have imagined – the ones that feel comfortable, safe, predictable, and secure in our best predictions – seem farther and farther away as we go higher and higher, the way cars look like scurrying ants from airplane windows. It’s scary to go up. Whether it’s up Everest, or up in a sky-diving plane, or up to the top of a roller coaster, the higher up we go, the less control we really have. We’re vulnerable up there, left wondering if we’ll come crashing down. It’s the same with Christ. The higher we go up, the more control we lose as we have to trust Him for everything.
He isn’t tame. He isn’t afraid to ask us for everything. He tells us the cost will be high to follow Him. He isn’t safe.
But He is good.
I’m clinging to that more and more as I seek to trust Him more and more each day. For the longest time (really since moving here), Jacob and I have been seeking clarity. How long should we stay? How should we make this life work? What should we do? Where does He want us to live? If this is what we’re supposed to do, why is it so hard? Why do we feel so uncertain? Sometimes we wrestle with these questions to the point of mental exhaustion. As we were praying for clarity, I happened to pick up a book. In it, the author told a story of someone who met Mother Teresa for the first time when he went to volunteer with her Missionaries of Charity. This volunteer trip was his first step in trying to decide what to do next with his life. Mother Teresa asked him how she could pray for him. He asked that she pray he had clarity as he sorted through the decisions about where his life should go.
She told him no.
She said she wouldn’t pray for clarity, but would instead pray for trust, telling him that she’d never had clarity – only trust in God’s goodness.
Since reading that, I’ve realized I’ve been praying the wrong prayer. My desire for clarity has been mostly rooted in my desire for control. I want a clearly delineated plan for the future, hopefully at least 5 year’s worth. I want to ensure my safety and security, and the best way I know how to do that is to plan ahead.
But as I try to plan, He keeps calling me up. Up higher where I must trust Him more. Where my only security is Him. Where my only safety is found in His hand. It’s troubling and disconcerting, for I do want a tame and safe King. It’s natural, I think. But, as I grow in my understanding of His goodness, it is easier for me to trust Him, in spite of the fact that He is neither tame nor safe.
I’m not there yet, but I can more confidently say that come what may, He is good. Always good. Even if my circumstances suggest otherwise. Even if I can’t see Him. Even if He asks me to do something difficult or dangerous. He is always good.
I hope you are growing in the knowledge of His goodness.