Safe Prisons

Today, for ‘S’, I thought about the title of this blog: Wanton Disregard for Safety. That doesn’t sound sensible, so I thought it good to elaborate.

There’s an oft-quoted line attributed to Ben Franklin, that “those who would trade liberty for security deserve neither.”

Certain voices in America are now suggesting that perhaps the Constitution has to change, because we live in a different time than that of our forefathers. Perhaps some of the protections on certain freedoms need to be limited further, because, what else can we do in the face of unexpected and indiscriminate terror attacks on the public? The logic justifies ubiquitous security cameras and intrusive door-to-door searches like that conducted in Boston. It explains the IRS mindset that private e-mails are free sources of information, and calls to mind the recent CISPA measure that passed the House, enabling companies to share private information. Of course, the desire for security informs the gun control debate, as our society tries to balance freedom and the Second Amendment with safety, security, and good common sense about the use and proliferation of weapons.

Franklin’s quote came up with regularity after the passage of the Patriot Act under President Bush. Those who opposed his administration’s efforts in the War on Terror used the quote to question invasive TSA searches, Guantanamo Bay, indefinite detention, and military tribunals.
The desire for security is innate and powerful. If not for myself, I wonder how I can better protect my wife, my children, the property I care about, and the free society I love. When something challenges that safety, it’s hard to resist withdrawing behind locked doors, shutting out the dangers of the world, and finding a place of limited peace.

There’s a spiritual parallel. I believe the opposite of Franklin’s statement is true for the Christian. Those who trade security for liberty find both.

Many of us have built fortresses to withstand the chaos of life: financial stability, an upwardly mobile career, the all-important protective bubble around our children, the certainty of knowing what will happen next, the not too cold not too hot Goldilocks religion so common in Western Christianity.

When troubles challenge us and we hide in those man-made places of refuge, we give up the freedom to move, to fully live, to experience the provision of God in the midst of the trial. To guard that security, we become bound to and consumed by the effort of maintaining whatever we’re trusting in. We choose safe prisons and solitary confinement over the presence and protection of the Good Shepherd.

When we abandon those high safe walls and step out into the world, we are indeed at risk. But that’s where He is, and He’s beckoning for us to come and follow. It’s hard to follow from a fortress that doesn’t move.

There’s a tale in King David’s time of Eleazar, one of David’s mighty men. At one battle, the people of Israel flee, and only Eleazar remains to stand against the enemy, fighting until his hand can’t even let go of his sword.

and after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there to battle and the men of Israel had withdrawn. He arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary and clung to the sword, and the Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to strip the slain. (2 Samuel 23:9, 10 NASB)

The second account of the story gives crucial information: Eleazar wasn’t alone. His king stood with him against the enemy.

After him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, who was one of the three mighty men. He was with David at Pasdammim when the Philistines were gathered together there to battle, and there was a plot of ground full of barley; and the people fled before the Philistines. They took their stand in the midst of the plot and defended it, and struck down the Philistines; and the Lord saved them by a great victory. (1 Chronicles 11:12-14 NASB)

In the midst of the confusion, in the harsh realities we face outside our carefully crafted fortresses, we can find security greater than any we can create for ourselves. We encounter “the peace of God, which surpasses comprehension” (Php 4:7). We realize that true liberty is found in the presence of the Lord (2 Cor 3:17).
That’s why Pastor Saeed can go to a place like Iran and face cruelty and opposition. He knows a freedom that outshines any man-made refuge, one that can’t be stopped by chains or a jail cell. That’s why brave men and women throughout the last two thousand years have been able to forsake all and pour out their lives in service of others, strangers they’ve never known. Some risk all to reach into oppressive regimes in order to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the people. Some spend all they can to minister to those the world calls worthless, to break the chains of modern-day slavery. Some forsake friendships and family ties in order to pursue the life-changing liberty we casually enjoy.

We have a choice. We can throw a heavy bar across the doors of our lives, closing ourselves off from every danger, shutting the world out and ourselves in – safely imprisoned. Or we can throw wide the doors and charge into the world around us, aware of the dangers but more aware of the opportunities and liberties found in the footsteps of the Savior.

May we be found on the spiritual field of battle, arms sagging, taking our stand back-to-back with our King.

Where Feet May Fail

I’m enjoying the new Hillsongs United release, Zion, as I edit and update blog posts. One of the songs in particular speaks to my heart for this worship-specific blog.

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Joel Houston, Matt Crocker & Salomon Ligthelm

from user *clairity* on Flickr, see description for details

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

I spent over two years at the Presidio of Monterey in California. On my first trip there, I was a single young man with few responsibilities outside of work. My friends and I often headed to the nearby beaches to enjoy the surf. For a Chicago boy, the ocean was something completely new, extraordinary and vast, fresh and vibrant.

I learned quickly that it is also very powerful. My best friend and I were climbing around on jagged rocks as huge waves were crashing into the beach at Asilomar. We got a little close, and I remember turning to see a waist-high wave breaking before I found myself pushed backwards across the rocks.

The ocean can be a risky place.

My daughter Deborah was about seven and was playing in the water at Kadena Marina on Okinawa. She stayed close to her mommy, at the point where she could keep her head above the gentle waves while still touching the surface beneath the water.

Then she went past the natural ledge and hit a sharp drop-off. My wife Jami heard a sudden panicked “Mommy!” before Deborah went under. Thanks to a swift instinctive reaction, Jami’s arm shot out and caught hold of Deborah under the water, pulling her to safety.

When you walk out into the water, you risk finding depths where your feet won’t touch the bottom.

When we step out in faith, we find places where our abilities and our capacities come to an end… where we’re forced to rely on God.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I’m not at this point yet, that’s for sure. This concept of “wanton disregard for safety” and chasing the storm is something I’m saying as much to myself as to anyone else. My fears and my hunger for security try to hold me back from stepping out of the boat, even though Jesus stands there saying, “It is I, do not be afraid.”

That doesn’t mean I have to stay that way.