“Course He Isn’t Safe. But He’s Good.”

I don’t want your god of rainbows and butterflies, your god who dances in fields and makes daisy chains and takes you on picnics, or your god who always forgives, is never angry, is always gentle, and is always super positive. I don’t want your sheep, your bright ball of light, your grandfatherly figure, and your heavenly Santa Claus.

Sorry, lovely, the God of this universe is not a kindly, old, gray-haired, hippy grandfather. Yes, He romances us. Yes, He always, 100%-of-the-time, no-matter-what forgives us. Yes, He is gentle with us, even when He breaks us.

But please, please, don’t lose sight of the sword in the folds of his robe. Don’t lose sight of the fire in His eyes. Don’t forget that, when people see Him without protection, they die. Don’t forget that His angels cause warriors to fall to the ground and fear for their life. Don’t forget that this is the God who ripped His own heart out of His chest and put it on earth for us to trample on and abuse. Don’t forget that He has sacrificed everything and daily fights for us.

There are times in my life when I need the God who romances me, who paints sunsets and plants flowers, and who puts people in my life to say a gentle word, and He is always faithful to provide that. But mostly, if I’m really honest, I need the God who will stand over my curled up, incapacitated soul and fight away the darkness with His sword.

I need the God who pushes my boundaries. I need the God who chisels away painfully at my soul, working on me and convicting me to become more like Him. I need the God who is covered to His elbows in the blood of my enemies, who fights for me while I cower behind Him, who hands me a sword and pushes me into the fray when I don’t think I’m brave enough or strong enough.

I need the God who doesn’t cut me slack, who demands perfection, who is angry with a righteous anger when I walk away or hurt Him, who lets me face the consequences of my choices, and who is always waiting to take me back. I need the God who knows me better than I know myself. I need the God who molded my face with His fingers – the fingers that built up the mountains and leveled the plains and carved out the unfathomable, deep places for the oceans.

I need the God who is strong enough to carry me when I can’t walk on my own. I need the God who never tires, never sleeps, never fails, and never gives up on me. I need the God who is as desperate for me as I am for Him and will go to whatever lengths He must to win my heart and soul.

One of my most favorite quotes of all time is from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Susan is talking with Mr. Beaver about Aslan, and she says, “Is he – quite safe?” And Mr. Beaver replies, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The God I need, the God I serve, is not safe.

To be safe, He would have to be small enough to be understood. He would have to be something I could pull into tiny pieces and figure out. He would have to be small enough for me to wrap my head around. He would have to be predictable and quantifiable.

I could never worship Him, serve Him, give my life to Him, or follow Him if He were small enough to be safe.

So, please, throw away your safe God. Throw away the thing you’ve shrunk God into. Throw away your tiny, one-dimensional view of God. Throw away the PC, kind, loving, old man floating on a cloud in the sky. Remember that the Creator of the Universe and all its intricacies could never be small enough for you, the created, to truly grasp.

But always remember that He is good.

No matter how ferocious He is, no matter how angry He gets, no matter how powerful He is, no matter how strong He is, no matter how much control He has, no matter how much you run away, no matter how jealous He is for you, and no matter how much He longs for you, He will always be good. Always.

I rest in His hand, covered by the strength of His mighty right arm. I know that His unfathomable love for me is why He protects me. I know that He will always be there to bind up my wounds and carry me to safety.

Because I know the strength of my God, I know that there is nothing He cannot face, there is nothing He will shrink from, and there is nothing that can defeat Him. I know that, because He loves me as His own child, I am cherished with both the ferocity of a warrior and the gentleness of a father. I know that I am always cared for, always loved, and always safe when I rest in the palm of His hand.

I can rest knowing that I will always be protected. I have peace knowing that I will always be delivered. I have courage knowing that I will never fight alone. I have hope knowing that He will never stop fighting to make the world right again.

My Protector, my Father, my Savior, my Lord, and my God will never abandon me, never grow tired of me, never hurt me maliciously, and never forsake me. The Destroyer of my enemies is my Great Physician. The Pillar of Fire is my Calm Waters. I am never alone. I am never forsaken. I will never be abandoned. I am safe.

I’ll take that over your puny half-god any day.

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Silent Sinners in a Church Filled with Shame

There comes a moment in every relationship where secrets begin to bubble up. At this moment, you have a choice to make – either you tell the secrets, baring your soul and hoping for the best or you shove them back down and never breathe a word because they’re shameful and not something that’s discussed with other people.

There comes a moment in the church where we are invited, as the body of Christ, to open up and be extremely real with each other. We are called to live life together, to build relationships. We are commanded to confess to one another. We are supposed to hold one another up and bear one another’s burdens.

In this, comes that moment of secrets. We are family. We are all one body. We are supposed to be open, honest, confessional, and forgiving. With this family, we are supposed to be choosing tell the secrets. We are supposed to be willing to bare our souls and take a leap, knowing that our family will catch us.

Instead, we are terrified. Every time we meet, we pull on our mask of perfection, hiding the pain, anger, and sin because it’s not something we admit to. It’s not something we talk about.

Failed/failing marriage?

We don’t want anyone the know because it’s shameful, and we look at all the seemingly perfect relationships around us and shudder to think how they’ll judge us.

Depression?

We don’t want anyone the know because it’s shameful, and we remember the advice we’ve often been given – “Just get your life right with Christ. You’re not trusting Him enough.”

Addiction?

We don’t want anyone the know because it’s shameful, and we try to keep it tucked away when we’re with the church and hope no one looks too hard and sees it.

Lack of knowledge?

We don’t want anyone the know because it’s shameful, and we nod and smile because we’re afraid of what people would think if they knew we didn’t know all the Bible stories or big theological words.

Miscarriage? Trouble getting pregnant?

We don’t want anyone the know because it’s shameful, and we look at all the kids wandering around and hope that no one thinks something is wrong with us, that God is punishing us or telling us that we’re not supposed to have kids.

Problems with your kids?

We don’t want anyone the know because it’s shameful, and we never talk about those because we think it means we’ve failed as parents.

Abuse?

We don’t want anyone to know because it’s shameful, and it might be our fault and, and we don’t want people to think of us like that.

Anger?

We don’t want anyone to know because it’s shameful, and as a Christian, we’re supposed to be nice to everyone and not struggle with having kind words to share.

Loneliness?

We don’t want anyone to know because it’s shameful, and maybe that somehow means that we’re not close enough to God.

We are so caught up in the shame that comes with opening wide our chests and letting people look into our hearts. We are terrified of changing people’s perceptions of us. We don’t want anyone to know that we don’t have it all together.

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about the culture of shame that permeates throughout the church. It is a stench that fills us whenever we gather. It reminds us to stay hidden because people just might not understand. It reminds us to pull on our masks and tuck our sins away so no one else sees them – not the church and not the world.

It’s a vicious cycle, really.

We think we have to show a perfect face to the world so they know we’re Christians and that we’ve got our life together because, if they know we sin, obviously our life hasn’t changed and God really isn’t worth anything. So when someone looks within the church and sees all the perfect masks, they think they have to be perfect to be a part of the church.

It goes around and around and around, encouraging more and more people to pull on masks in the name of Christianity. It fosters an environment of lies, discontent, and, more than anything, shame. Putting on a mask also doesn’t deal with a problem; it just covers it up and keeps it there festering.

Taking a mask off is a terrifying thing. Our churches traditionally aren’t very accepting of a lot of things. A lot of people who have their mask stripped off eventually end up leaving the church because they find themselves suddenly no longer welcome. “You’re not the person we thought you were.”

Even if it’s a really good church that recognizes that we are still sinners and still make mistakes, we never admit those mistakes to one another, so there is a huge amount of fear that comes with being real. “Will they still like me? Will I still be good enough?”

Somehow, the main question I always hear is, “Will God still love me?”

Darling, you cannot hide from the God we serve. He already knows what’s behind the mask, and He loves you anyway.

Christ died, not to remove sin from our life, but to pay the consequences for our sin. Yes, we fight a daily battle to align our will with His. Because we have died to ourselves and taken up His cross, we don’t want to sin, but we still do because we’re human and, as much as we love God and want to align ourselves with Him, our hearts don’t always get the memo and want destructive things.

This is a hard enough fight without having to maintain a mask at the same time. Just put it down.

“But we have to be different!” I’m told. “How will the world know we’re any different from them if we struggle with the same sins?”

Hope.

The difference between Christians and non-Christians is not that we somehow struggle with fewer sins. It’s not that we have our life more together. It’s not that we are happy all the time or sinless.

The difference is that we have hope. In the midst of our broken, sinful lives, we cling tightly to the hope that this pain is not forever. These sins do not have to define us. These things that we struggle with are not greater than the God we serve.

We are sinful people in the hands of a merciful God. And how He loves us. His grace swallows us whole. There is no shame when we rest in Him. His strength sustains us. He is always ready to pick us up, brush us off, heal our wounds, and hold our hand as we sally forth into the fray again.

Maybe it’s time we the church start acting a little bit more like that.