When Safety is Cruel
I dreamed last night I was a young girl of about seventeen attending a Christian summer camp. The real draw of this particular camp was the fact it was on a huge ranch with acres and acres of gorgeous fields, numerous horses, skilled cowpokes and amazing barns. As a country-raised gal, my anticipation was off-the-charts. However, after a procession of horses and demonstration of riding and roping skill, we were told the rules of the camp. Basically, we were to stay within the fences. All the cool stuff was off-limits. This included the horses, barns and anything else of the slightest risk.
I begged the leader of the camp but he turned a deaf ear. I even asked a passing cowboy to take up my case, describing how I was raised in the country and knew how to stay safe in that environment, but he didn’t want to risk his job by breaking one of the many rules. He walked away. I was devastated. It was the worst torture. There I was, mere inches from what I’d been longing for, acres of beautiful freedom, but I couldn’t enter.
The dream morphed at this time so that I was my present age. I called the administrator of this camp and, after listening to endless scripture quotations and stale rhetoric about being under authority and avoiding all appearance of evil, I finally got to speak.
This is where the mama bear side of me went to town. I told the head honcho I had been a Christian all my life, I knew the scriptures and if it was a quoting competition he wanted I could play that game. However, I told him his rules were flat-out cruel. “You are spending so much time protecting yourself from any possible legal complication that you’re torturing your campers. You show them this incredible freedom then tell them to stay in a cage? It would be better if you didn’t show them at all!”
End of dream. Now for interpretation.
Putting me in a place of staying on the “safe” side away from fields, horses and barns was, for me, ultimate torture. It was the perfect way for God to open my heart to what we as the church do to people who come seeking real freedom from the evil in their lives. They’re desperate, depressed, addicted, marriages crumbling, kids messed up, in financial ruin, destroyed by lust, etc. Instead of taking the risk of ushering them into real power, introducing them to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit—a baptism of power and equipping—we force them to stay on the safe side.
I realize, much like open fields with hidden snakes and heavy horses that could crush a foot with one careless hoof, there are real risks involved with praying for the Baptism of the Spirit as presented in the New Testament. I’m old enough to remember the flakiness so often associated with “charismatics.” All too often zeal can go hand-in-hand with spiritual immaturity, much like a toddler wielding a chainsaw. For this reason, mature Christians tend to steer clear of the gifts of the Spirit such as speaking in tongues, healing and casting out demons.
I am as guilty as anyone of steering away from controversial waters. I realize manifestations of God’s power can stir up confusion and/or fear. As stated before, I’ve seen the misuse. But it’s time to get past the fear of people’s opinions. I’ve put so much emphasis on not causing a fellow brother to stumble that I’ve become “a form of godliness denying its power.”
In other words, I am the camp administrator. I build barricades. I block the gate rather than open it.
How horrible do things have to get before I’m willing to leave my comfort zone to reach the lost and actually equip them with the power of the Holy Spirit—what Jesus sent to free us and equip us for true ministry?
Today I’m laying the idolatry of people’s good opinions at the foot of the cross. I’m asking for the boldness to present the truth—the whole truth—in love and wisdom. I’m repenting of putting self-preservation ahead of heartbroken love for the lost.
God, please help me lead those desperate for true life into your wide-open fields of joy and freedom. Please help ME get out from behind the safety barrier to truly take hold of what you lived, died and raised from the dead to give.
Of course You’re not safe, God. But You’re GOOD.
Chana is wife of one, mom to four and bestselling author of two. She brakes for old barns, chai, homemade cookies and any time someone needs to watch Pride & Prejudice.
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