In our elementary school parent teacher conferences yesterday, I noticed a category on the report cards that I hadn’t really noted before. Part of the rubric, part of what is ingrained in our culture is “awareness of the safety of self and others”. Incidentally, I wouldn’t expect high marks in this category for Kota who climbed on the roof at 5, and Lizzie who started a grass fire (and put it out by her self) at the same age – caution is not their natural strength! But I noticed this category and it made me wonder… Have we put too high a premium on safety? This is not a school issue, it’s all over our culture. Have we mitigated so much of life’s risk out of the picture that there’s no longer any room for faith?
My dad recently heard Vince Antonucci speak at a conference and picked me up a copy of his new book, Renegade. [Just for the record, it’s a great book and you should read it!] The book makes the case that “your faith isn’t meant to be safe” in a very compelling (and humorous) way. Antonucci shares stories from his experience starting new churches geared for people that don’t like the church. Stories of dangerous faith. Stories of a dangerous God. It’s a dangerous book for a father to give a son. A lot of dads wouldn’t give their sons a book like this, for fear that they may actually read it and live like the book suggests they should. It’s a risky life we’ve been called to.
The sad thing, I think, is that the safe, sanitized version of faith that seems to be the norm isn’t really faith at all. And “without faith, it is impossible to please God.”
Do we really get that verse? Do we really understand what it’s saying. Go ahead and take a minute to read Hebrews 11. It’s a cliff notes version of the life stories of a bunch of people who did please God by living faithfully. But when I say faithfully, I don’t mean they just followed all the right rules all the time and had perfect attendance to the Sabbath services and didn’t drink or cuss or smoke… They pleased God by doing what He told them to do, even at great personal risk and with no guarantee of their own safety. Would your life story fit in that chapter?
Are we missing the boat here, church? We train our kids to work hard in school so they can get a good job and make a good living. Where is God in that? Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with making a good living, if that’s what God wants. But if making a good living comes at the expense of making a difference by living the life God calls us to, then we can’t call that a life of faith. Why are we so afraid that God won’t provide if we, or our kids, decide to give our lives to some kind of vocation that’s helpful to a lot of people, but not very lucrative?
I may be entering my pre-graduation season funk a little early this year, so you can write this all off as Mike’s crazy depression talk if you want, but we need to stop teaching our kids to sell their souls to a life of ease and plenty. We need to stop telling ourselves that our safety and security comes from a comfortable adjusted gross income. We need to stop working our way safely through life day by day and start spending our days so close to God that, as our heart beats with His, we’ll have the courage to live days that He can use to transform the lives around us.
If that means taking a lower paying job so you can invest more of yourself in your own family and in others to the glory of God ~ don’t be afraid.
If that means giving up a great scholarship at a state school in order to follow God’s lead to a more expensive Bible College ~ don’t be afraid.
If that means giving a year before college to serve Christ in the inner city or with an overseas mission ~ don’t be afraid.
If that means a complete career change after 15 or 20 years climbing the ladder you’re on ~ don’t be afraid.
As a youth minister, sometimes I think about stuff like this and marvel that anyone lets me near their kids. But if we’re going to please God with the way we live and the way we raise the kids He’s entrusted to us… we can’t let fear win. Is your life pleasing God?
Not without faith it isn’t.