Jesus put his arms around each one and whispered, “I didn’t come to just give you good things; I came to give you Me, my Father, and the Holy Spirit. In Us, you have real life. You’re safe.”
–Presence (unpublished…coming soon)
Philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard is fond of asking the following question: “If you could use only one word to describe Jesus, what would that word be?” You can probably imagine the answers: God, Savior, Teacher, Fraud, Risen, Redeemer, Liar, Beloved, Lord, Friend, Christ, Lunatic, Rock, Son, Messiah, Fictitious, Healer, Love…perhaps you have your own one-word description.
Willard’s word is “relaxed.” Perhaps I have a different image of a “relaxed” person than Dr. Willard intends. From Webster: Lacking precision? No, Jesus was very precise. At rest or at ease? Often; however that whole sweating blood episode before His beating and crucifixion didn’t seem too relaxing. Easy of manner? I imaging Jesus as assuredly intense. “Relaxed” doesn’t fit for me.
“Safe.” I like this word. To be clear, I don’t think it is the best word to describe Jesus; however, I do think it is a great word to describe His response as He moved about in the world.
The world around us is a scary place. There are murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, fiscal cliffs, car crashes, wars, falls, scrapes, bumps, bruises, insults, betrayals, hunger, bankruptcy, homelessness, fights, loneliness, sickness, disease, and so much more. One has only to watch the evening news.
There is a great scene in the 1991 movie, Grand Canyon. Suburbanite Mac’s car breaks down at night in the inner city of Los Angeles. While he is waiting for the tow truck, a carload of young thugs threaten him. Tow truck driver Simon arrives and in a confrontation with the thugs says, “I don’t know if you know it, but the world ain’t supposed to be this way.” Mac isn’t supposed to be afraid, the thugs aren’t supposed to be waiving guns, and by extension there aren’t supposed to be a poor inner city or young men forced to prove their toughness or…well, it goes on and on. It reaches all the way back to the Garden. It ain’t supposed to be this way.
Isn’t that true. Somewhere, deep down inside of us we know that the world is dangerous, we agree with Simon, the world ain’t supposed be this way. We should be safe.
Now, I feel safe in one regard: I know my eternal destiny, to use the Christian vernacular. I am completely assured that when I die I will be with the Christian God for all of eternity. I will be safe. To quote God’s promise:
And I heard a loud voice from God, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
That is safe! It is safety guarantied by God Himself, creator of all the heavens and the universe. Right now I feel safe in that way, a future safeness, a safeness-to-come. I’m sure Jesus also felt that kind of safeness-to-come.
What about right now. Do I have to live in fear now and wait for the safety-to-come? Did Jesus? No, to both. Is it as simple as a choice? My choice? Yes, to both.
Don’t be afraid any longer, only believe.
Jesus felt safe by letting go. Jesus had no expectations of His own, only expectancy of His Father’s fulfilled promises. By contrast, I have expectations and plenty of them, and most of my life’s expectations have been tightly interwoven with the American Dream. Too, my expectancy of God-at-work has been low. “God helps those who help themselves” after all. I work hard for my daily bread, my refrigerator is full; I don’t have to expect God to keep His promise. (Oh, that last quote is from Benjamin Franklin, not God.)
I have learned that my expectations keep my eyes firmly locked on me; it is my expectation of how my life should be, my expectation of how the world should be, and my expectation of how God must act. My expectations put me in the center of my world and offers the illusion of me in charge of my life and the world and God, and that’s the whole problem, isn’t it. In fact, that’s the root of the problem: man trying to be God. Expectations only lead to fear, the fear of failed expectations.
Expectancy is different. Expectancy as practiced by Jesus is God-centered. My life for His glory; Jesus’ choice must be mine. No expectations. I am God’s adopted son. I have all of the rights of His son. He loves me and will treat me and care for me as the beloved son that I am, including dashing my expectations as He conforms me into the likeness of Jesus. Those are not my expectations, those are God’s promises. To the extent that I, with His help (and He does most of the work!), can let go of my own expectations and hold on only to the expectancy that my Father will love me and treat me as He has promised, no matter what that means for my personal circumstances, then I will feel safe. I will be safe. Fear will be gone. My life for His glory.
Jesus didn’t come just to give me things to fulfill my expectations, He came to give me Himself in loving relationship. Only in relationship with Him will I be safe, and I will have life and have it abundantly.
That’s the way things are supposed to be.