My friend, a counselor, tells the story of a suicidal client who somehow managed to find out where he lives.
This troubled person showed up on my friend’s doorstep at dinner one night with the intention of ending his life then and there.
Why? Because he figured that was a “safe” place to commit this final act.
Let’s think this through for a moment…is suicide safe anywhere? What’s wrong with this picture?
Before we are tempted to think that only someone in desperate straits would practice such convoluted thinking, let’s remember we are all brainwashed about what is “safe” in our culture.
That’s because our orientation is feelings-first. If our feelings tell us something is safe, we believe it is safe.
Problem is, feelings can lie.
If I had a dollar for every time I hear talk about whether church is safe, and certain relationships are safe, and, gosh, I don’t know, the next coffee outing is safe, I’d be a rich woman.
Of course, we don’t want to ignorantly put ourselves in harms way. We don’t want to touch the hot stove, or hang out with people who use and abuse us. But let’s take a step back to look at the big picture and define some terms.
What do we really mean by “safe?”
Too often, what we mean by “safe” is “free from being judged by others” — since, in the unspoken religion of our day, to judge another is the worst possible sin.
I have a problem with that kind of thinking.
If by “safe” I mean an environment where I always get to feel good about myself, avoid all pain, and never have to change, that kind of “safety” is not something God promises me.
On the contrary. The promise to followers of Jesus is that we will be persecuted and hated by others.
Following Jesus means we get to practice difficult things like confronting each other when we sin. It means we must humble ourselves and ask forgiveness when we blow it.
Spiritual growth is painful. It takes place in the crucible of hardship and discipline. Following Christ and becoming more like him doesn’t necessarily feel “safe.” It feels painful.
But our culture has a way of reversing the factors and throwing off the whole equation. The prophet Isaiah described this well:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” –Isaiah 5:20
On principle, we could add to this list, Woe to those who call danger safety and safety dangerous.
Here’s what feels safe but is dangerous: Coddling someone who needs confrontation, comforting a child who needs discipline, accusing loving truth-speakers of “hating.”
Here’s what feels threatening, yet actually gives you safe refuge: Tough love. Courageous compassion.A friend who loves you enough to risk rejection as he/she speaks into your life.
Real love takes more than feelings into account.
Real love wants the best for the other person. Real love is more interested in your transformation than in your comfort.
So let’s not be too quick to label anything and everything that’s painful or challenging as abusive or unsafe. (If we did, we’d have to throw out much of the New Testament!)
Let’s learn to discern the difference between being comfortable (I don’t have to change) and being truly secure (God loves me too much to leave me this way).
Even if it’s painful, may you find safe refuge in God’s unfailing love.