I got another tattoo last week.
“You don’t have to feel safe to feel unafraid.”
This is a line from “Lions,” a song by the artist Lights. Over the past several years, these particular words and the concept behind them have seeped deeply into my worldview. In fact, I have subscribed to their worth in tandem with another fascinating sentence that I have known about for many years:
“Of course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.”
This is a line from the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, in which the adventurous children have just been told about Aslan the lion, ruler of the land. The depiction of this figure brings shivers of fear and respect down the spine of Lucy in particular, who hesitantly poses the question, “Is he quite safe? I feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” This is the response from her new friend the Beaver, who rather inclusively summarizes my view of a God in whom I have placed my trust [and life].
Somehow, the idea of God not being safe — yet also being good — has provided comfort for me.
“Of course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.” “You don’t have to feel safe to feel unafraid.”
Well, that just might change everything.
The past several years have been the most difficult of my life. Looking back, I am aware that my endurance and ultimate survival of tragedy and difficulty is inherently indicative of a larger, divine plan of which I may never be made aware. How do I know this? Well, that’s an excellent question.
I don’t really know it.
But I believe it. And there is a difference between knowing and believing.
One of the interesting things I have learned as a clinical social worker is the concept of cognitive behavioral therapy, which suggests that our thoughts and feelings and behaviors are all systemic, cycling in a revolving motion every day of our lives.
All scientific, but not to say the things that we believe are always based on rational thought easily supported by evidence.
Enter life. Each and every day of it.
I guess my adult life has taught me a few things about what I know. I know a lot less than I thought I did before I was put to the test. Ultimately, knowledge doesn’t often bring comfort anyways. I’m rarely brought to a place of peace and rest within my own spirit by reassurance in the form of a brilliantly arranged and logical sentence.
Hope isn’t scientific. I guess that’s what I have learned.
But my beliefs spur hope in a way that’s systemic. Like the belief that my life isn’t a sporadic session of difficulties and challenges, suspended in endless time. Or the belief that my life has been given a purpose far greater than any present fear that may threaten to blind my eyes and choke my throat.
I’ve been frozen. Stone-cold from fear, defiance, and the experiences of a world that sometimes lacks mercy.
I’ve also felt the thawing warmth of One who loves deeply and unconditionally, regardless of my circumstances.
As a child, I remember watching the old BBC Narnia films, in which a White Witch drastically waved a wand and animals, humans, and everything in between turned into statue. Mournful, I wept as the strong lion surveyed this carnage with kind, unblinking eyes. Taking a deep breath, he exhaled slowly in the direction of a statue. “AHHH,” He softly brought the sound over the coldness, saturating the figure with freedom.
It thawed. With the moment settling upon the frigidness like a blanket, color slowly appeared in the skin or fur of the frozen. And they were set free from their imprisonment, leaping to life gratefully.
Life is abstract. It’s made of sharp angles and disproportionate lines, seemingly meaningless dots and arrows that point in a way we would never choose to go.
But it’s not always up to us.
Each of us has to reside inside of the tangled, jumbled mess of our world. And though it seems futile or hopelessly disorganized, I like to place my faith firmly in the belief that it is NOT. Every line, every arrow pointing in a certain direction, every dotted pathway or spot in the shade has a purpose. It means something.
But I might not get it. And many of my life experiences may not make sense as long as I live.
I have put my life and my trust in a God who I believe is huge. The ability to see beyond just my life, or just my circumstances, is something I do not possess. But there is a God who sees everything.
And when pulled back from the mess, it creates a gorgeous image.
A life lived in true freedom, with an intricate design that brings rhyme and reason to all the messy madness that threatened to be non-redeemable.
You’re the Lord of light shining in the dark
You’re the source of life beating in my heart
You’re the living hope, You’re the risen Christ
You restored my soul
You brought me back to life
— Citizens & Saints