The God of Unsafe Spaces
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
We live in crazy times. People are yearning for places of safety. We are so desperate for them that we invent them. We put signs up. We throw campus speakers out. We pad the playgrounds and we gag the writers. We hover over the children and we compensate the adults — you know — the ones someone accidentally “offended.”
Many people are burdened with fear and dread. Pastors mold churches into refuges for frightened people. Schools and colleges reconstruct themselves into places where no one’s feelings could ever get hurt, and no one’s ideas could ever be disregarded. Or challenged. Thousands of cul-de-sac parents hover over their children in an attempt to create environments far more protective than they themselves ever experienced (not to mention their parents).
“What is wrong with that?” you may ask. Nothing, really. We want to protect those we love.
The real problem is our tunnel vision. We are so frightened of things right in front of us that we cannot see the far greater dangers that surround us. Because we are thus blinded, we tend to look for safety in the wrong places — or, to be current — in the wrong ‘space.’ It is not found in a space. It is found somewhere else.
The children stuck in Narnia were fleeing for their lives when Mr. Beaver told them about the Lion. They were desperate for a safe place and ran breathlessly to the Beavers’ house. It was there that he told them about the great Aslan, the lion defender of the realm who was coming back to fight for them. The children asked if a lion could be “safe.”
“He isn’t safe … but he is good,” Mr. Beaver told them.
There is indescribable comfort in those words.
Jesus is Not “Safe”
It is certain Lewis was writing a parable of Jesus — Aslan would later offer his life as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the children and then be brought back to life to defeat the witch and restore Narnia.
Jesus is also not “safe” in the sense people seek today. Life will be brutal in many ways. But he is good.
He said it this way: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
Perhaps you remember what happened in the boat, during the storm on the Sea of Galilee. As Jesus approached, walking on the tossing waves, he called out to his fear-crazed band of disciples: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” You know the story. Peter gathers his courage, gets out of the boat and begins also walking on the water. Then he is overcome with fear and he begins to sink. Jesus pulls him out with a stern: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
The lake was a very unsafe space and hanging out with Jesus was an unsafe practice (and still is). In the sense we usually think of it, Jesus is not safe, just as Aslan was not. But he is good.
The Idols of “Safe Spaces”
The Bible is full of tragedies visited upon those who make idols out of ‘safe spaces.’ The false gods of security sitting on the altars of money, weaponry, government programs, relationships, pleasure, and many other things will all betray us.
Previous generations had to learn this lesson and it is a hard one. They then taught their children that the world is not safe. No person can make it safe. God does not make this world safe either. But he is there in the unsafe spaces to carry us through it, if we call upon him. That is key. If we do not, there is no place to hide.
Our foolishness in a modern America which has embraced this obsession with politically-correct and awkwardly-imposed places of “safety” has become laughable. In late 2015, universities began putting up signs of “safe spaces,” where students could be theoretically protected from a rowdy public, a nosy media or — aghast — ideas different than their own, rightfully earning us worldwide ridicule.
Not a few people contrasted the 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds thus “protected” with the same-aged kids that had seventy years prior stormed the beaches at Normandy and Iwo Jima. Those kids knew the world was not safe and most did not expect it to be. Still they got in the boats with rifles in their hands and (many) with New Testaments and Psalms in their pockets and faced the fire, calling upon God to help them.
Those who live thus and die thus are not much different than a shepherd boy named David, who, thousands of years ago, faced a lion and a bear and a huge warrior with confidence only in God. He would later write about walking through “The valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23) having no fear of evil, because God comforted him.
His valley of shadows was never safe. Many of the valleys and even mountaintops in your life and my life are also not safe. And there are many tears. But God is good. And he is preparing for us a place that is ultimately and permanently free from evil, tears, death and corruption of any kind.
We don’t see that yet. The battle still rages. But the apostle John saw it in a vision, in the book of Revelation. As he was weeping over the unfinished course of history, someone approached him: “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered … .'” (Revelation 5:5) Thus unfolds our ultimate redemption. Time itself shall be no more. We shall forever be in the presence of incomparable light and love.
And we shall be totally safe.