“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.

Advertisements

Spider Bite Antidote

So, I once had a bracelet. Currently, I have no earthly idea what happened to it. It was, however, for a short while, my favorite accessory.

It was a cuff about a half an inch wide with pretty scroll work all over it. I thought it was the most beautiful bracelet in the world.

It only had one problem.

It was made of copper.

Now, for those of you uneducated in the ways of copper who are scratching your heads and thinking, “What does that have to do with anything? Copper’s pretty. Aren’t pennies made of copper?” – no.

Pennies are made of some random metal (See, I’ve done a lot of research on this.) and then coated in copper. It’s cheaper to make them that way, even though it costs significantly more than a penny to make a penny.

I know this because, about a year ago, Twin gave a speech on the uselessness of the penny, and I listened to it about 4683 times while she was perfecting it.

Anyway.

My bracelet.

Copper, when it comes in contact with skin for a prolonged period of time, turns skin a gorgeous greenish-teal color.

It really is a beautiful color.

If you have a beloved bracelet that you wear every single day of your life, the beautiful color will intensify until it turns extraordinarily dark and noticeable.

If you are young and vaguely foolish, you will actually enjoy this new pigmentation of your skin because you will be determined that it sets of the copper color of the bracelet quite nicely and gives it this wonderful sheen it never had before.

I was (some would say, “am”) young and vaguely foolish.

Of course, when you walk around with a wrist so dark green it looks like you are:

A. slowly turning into the Hulk,
B. hiding an alien inside your wrist,
C. very fond of green, leafy vegetables (actually, eating a large amount of those won’t turn you green. I’ve checked.),
D. carrying some kind of deadly mold on your wrist,
E. a carrier of some form of the plague,
or F. all of the above,

people feel inclined to ask questions.

That or they stare at your wrist and forget how to speak in normal sentences and pray that “that thing” never touches them.

At first, I would proudly hold up my wrist for a closer inspection and declare, “Copper turns skin green! Don’t you think the green sets off my bracelet so nicely?”

They would inevitably do one of three things:

1. sigh in relief and treat me like a slightly deranged but mostly harmless human being,
2. nod slowly and back away very quickly, never breaking eye contact until they were out of reach,
or 3. roll their eyes and tell me to take the bracelet off and please go wash my arm (this was mostly The Life-Givers).

I’ve always been a very dramatic child so these encounters always left me feeling discontent, like there was some great potential here that I was missing.

Then, one day, I was talking to a younger cousin I hadn’t seen in a while, and the question about my green arm inevitably came up.

I opened my mouth to give my usual answer when brilliance struck.

“I was bitten by a West African Flying Spider.”

His mouth dropped open in shock and awe, and he stammered out, “What’s that?”

I explained that it was a very rare, but extremely poisonous spider.

I told my young, naive cousin that I had been stalking one, trying to catch it, when it turned around and started chasing me!

He gasped and fell back. (It helped that he was deathly afraid of spiders.)

“I ran as fast as I could,” I said. “But those things are fast. I threw up my hands to try to swat it down, and it bit me, right here on the wrist, injecting its poison into my bloodstream.”

He was very nervous, his eyes flickering about the room. He asked me all kinds of questions about what it looked like and how it moved.

Being the wonderful, sweet person I am, I described a common wolf spider.

(The poor kid is still afraid of spiders, but he doesn’t remember that he has me to thank for that.)

Suddenly, his face cleared of all fear.

I knew the game was up, that he’d figured out I was making the whole thing up.

I prepared to laugh with him.

“Really?” he said. “I mean, I get that it bit you, but you’re still alive. It can’t be that bad.”

And so back into the story I went.

I explained that, luckily, I was close to a hospital.

I staggered to it, watching the green poison spread up my arm, knowing that, once the green reached my heart, I’d be dead.

He was close to tears.

I knew I needed to save myself quick so he wouldn’t have permanent damage.

So, I told him that, once again luckily, I fell into the doors of the ER right in time and a passing doctor happened to recognize my symptoms and have a copper bracelet in his pocket.

He slapped that puppy on my wrist, and immediately, the copper drained the poison back down my arm.

That bracelet filled with poison, and he quickly replaced it with another, smaller one. The one I was currently wearing.

Obviously, it wasn’t able to pull out all the poison, but it was maintaining it, keeping it all in this one spot.

His eyes were huge, so I added just for his benefit, “And if I ever take the bracelet off, the poison will spread even faster, and I’ll die.”

And then he dissolved into tears, and I felt like a horrible human being.

Nevertheless, this became the story I told absolutely everyone when they asked me about my wrist.

This was when I realized the power of storytelling.

To me, this was very obviously fake. I thought that everyone knew that copper turned skin green. I thought that everyone would be able to recognize the outrageous-ness of my story and know it was only a story.

It was only when people went to The Life-Givers, asking about my spider bite, or got worried when I finally took the bracelet off that I realized they had believed me.

Over the years, ever since then, I’ve told a lot of stories – each more outrageous than the last, each pushing the limits of what people believe, trying to see how far they’re willing to go.

Now, I’m more honest about it. Once I know they absolutely believe me, I’ll tell them I’m just joking or that it’s a story I made up.

Sometimes, they’re so wrapped up in this fiction I’ve created for them, though, they think the lie is when I tell them it’s all a lie.

People believe the most compelling truth, even when everything they know goes against it. People will trust what you tell them over what they can see, hear, and taste for themselves. If you put a tiny grain of truth in the most outrageous lie, they’ll cling to that grain and declare, “See? This has to be true!”

This is the power of words. This is the power of human trust. This is something that I’m learning to not use quite so flippantly.

There is Power in a Name

There’s something about a name.

I had been told that she was a little grumpy and wasn’t big on chit-chat. They told me to get in, do what I had to do, then get back out. They told me to not waste my time on idle chatter; I wouldn’t get anything out of her.

I walked in the room a little apprehensively. The last person I had been told was “a little grumpy” threw something at my head. She groaned an acknowledgment of my presence and told me she had a headache.

To my shame, I didn’t talk to her. I told her I would see what I could do for that, did what I had to do, then left.

I was not looking forward to the time I was about to have to spend with her.

I went back in to see her a few minutes later. I had more things to do.

This time, she started talking to me. The woman they told me was “a little grumpy” was actually very lonely. Yeah, she was a little gruff, but she also hadn’t slept well in a few days.

And then I asked the question that would turn our entire day around.

“What do you want me to call you today?”

She stared at me for a long second, smiled, and told me a completely different name than everyone had been calling her.

“It’s my middle name. I go by my middle name.”

From that point on, I had a staunch supporter, a fast friend, and a willing partner in all the day’s goings on. If I told her we needed to go somewhere, she was game. If she needed help with something, she let me know first.

For the rest of the day, I got strange looks as I called her one name while everyone else called her something else. We just smiled a secret smile at each other and did what we had to do.

She told me about her dreams and the things she wanted from life. I told her about my travels and the places I wanted to go.

And she changed.

In the course of our day, she turned from a grumpy woman in a darkened room, to a smiling woman in a light-filled room.

I didn’t really realize the extent of the change in her until I walked in to check on her and found her trying to get up. She hadn’t gotten out of bed in two days because she didn’t think she could. Now, she declared that she was fine. And she was. She could walk.

When I told her my goodbyes at the end of the day, she thanked me. She told me I had done more good for her in my hours with her than had been done in days. I asked her what I had done that no one else had.

“You called me by my name.”

They told me he was completely deaf. They said that I could try talking to him, but it wouldn’t do much good. They told me his wife was a mother bear and could be pretty difficult. They said I might have trouble with her, to tread lightly.

When I walked in the room, his eyes followed me everywhere, but he didn’t say a word. His wife sat beside him, holding his hand, watching me too.

“Good morning. How are you guys today?”

His wife answered, “We’ve been better, but we’re hanging in there.”

I looked him in the eye, “How did you sleep?”

“Oh, he’s deaf,” she said.

“How deaf?”

They exchanged a look.

“He can’t hear much of anything.”

“Does he have one ear that’s better than the other?”

“No… He’s just deaf.”

“Okay. Well, what do you want me to call you guys today? Is Mr. and Mrs. ***** fine or is there something else you’d rather go by?”

She looked at me and smiled. And I will swear until I die that I saw him wink at me.

“You can call us by our first names. Last names are so formal, don’t you think? He can hear better out of his left ear.”

For the rest of the day, they were both incredibly supportive. The three of us chatted about their grandchildren and what they wanted to do with their retirement.

She supported all of my decisions. He was willing to do anything I asked. He stood up for me to one of my superiors. She bought me coffee because she knew I had a long day ahead of me. He laughed at all of my terrible jokes and told me some of his own. She laughed at both of us and told us we were worse than children.

When I went in to say my goodbyes, they both hugged me tight.

“Thank you,” she said, holding my hand. “Everyone calls us by our last names because we’re old. It was nice to just be us for a change.”

“You keep going, girl,” he said with another wink. “I know you’ll go far.”

It’s always the small things. It’s always a smile or a cup of coffee or a name.

Sometimes grumpy people are just lonely. Sometimes a bear just needs to be recognized as a scared human. Sometimes you just have to be willing to ask a simple question.

I’m coming to realize that there is incredible power in a name. It is who that person is. Their entire story is wrapped up in it. It’s what they will use to sign the dotted line when all is said and done. It’s the mile marker for their history.

Everyone who said something important to them used their name. Everyone who meant something to them knew their name. Everyone who loved them called them by their name.

Recognizing who someone is and calling them by their name can change them. It can make them better. It can sooth them. It can remind them of the good times.

Know someone’s name. And, more importantly, call them the right one. It can change their life. And yours.