The slogan of a local radio station, “Safe for the Whole Family,” never fails to irritate me. It’s not only that I don’t think the station is safe–from the lure of American consumerism, for instance. It’s not only that I don’t think safety is really to be found on this earth. It’s that I don’t really think “safe” is a good goal. Some part of me knows that the best things in my life have come from being un-safe. Some part of me is still humming in resonance from that line from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “Safe?…’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
I have been reading Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, and I’m struck by the vision she presents of leaders who are good leaders primarily because they are taking time to stand in ruthless honesty before God. They are surrendering their agendas in order to be present, and listen–both to God and to the people in their lives. I find it very hard, some days, to be utterly present and focused. My mind can be so full of laundry lists and strategizing that I reply to people on automatic. Today, in chewing over Barton’s book, I see that as an attempt to maintain control, a kind of control that makes me feel safe, even if harried. It locks me into what she calls “sloppy desperation: a mental and spiritual lethargy.” I cannot tremble or feel adventure or write or love when I am locked in sloppy desperation. I need to release that kind of “safety,” and be alive.
But standing still with your eyes wide open demands a kind of security, if not safety. To face that each day I need to feel the presence of God, and the shelter of the arms of the people who love me. I need to accept times of rest. I need to enjoy the safety of good habits that become “homes,” good thoughts that become “homes,” groups of people and physical places that God offers me as “homes” on my way. So I’m attaching these thoughts to a little sketch from my journal almost a year ago, after we came back from living in a hut in Africa and relishing stained glass in Paris–and throughout our trip feeling surprisingly at home.