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When You need Rest .... {Fridays on the Farm}

Why You Really May Need to be Done with Safe: Being a Dangerous Disciple of the Unsafe God

A Holy Experience

My Gran, she’s taking slow walks outside the hospital now.

Her heart’s growing stronger, beating certain.

I wash down the cupboards in the kitchen.

I pray for Gran’s heart attack recovery, for each step she keeps taking, ninety-one and frail-boned and Irish-determined.

Life’s a risk and maybe she’s stronger than I am, accepting each heart beat, each step, as ridiculously dangerous — and wanting it anyways.

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I wear gloves, carry this spray bottle with me from cupboard to cupboard.

The cleaner has this emblem on the front of a skeletal hand, the words DANGER blazoned in white. The Farmer found it in the automotive section. It’s a degreaser. It’s cathartic to scrub hard.

Like I am scrubbing things away. Like a working out of faith.

The Farmer told me today in the kitchen, me bent and relentlessly scouring with that potent cleaner, that sometimes dangerous is good — when fully understood, when right lived.

That our God would only be safe if He were dead.

But He is the Living Word and His Word is a flashing, double-edged sword and He doesn’t write Himself into neat five-point outlines but He is like the wind — and He speaks in parables that subvert and poetry that ignites and metaphors that jolt and there is nothing safe or small or stiff about Him.

That’s what I am thinking as I scrub smudge marks off cupboards, try to wash away all these marks. Thinking what the Beaver said of Aslan. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

 There is nothing safe about the Christ who rent the veins and the veil to save us — He is Divine and He is Dangerous and He is Detonating. He is no tame lion.

What did Randy Alcorn say and in the most Scriptural sense? “It’s dangerous faith in our untamed Savior that leads us to the joy we crave.

While I’m spraying down cupboards with this dangerous, this effective cleaner, it’s playing in the speakers, about the mountains and the hills breaking forth into singing, and all the trees of the field clapping their hands.

And there is so much we don’t understand though we steep ourselves in the infallible Word, that can’t be domesticated and entirely deduced by finite minds in a world where He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.

“I am not ashamed to own that I believe that the whole universe, heaven and earth, air and seas, the divine constitution and history of the holy Scriptures, be full of images of divine things,” writes Jonathan Edwards.

Did Edwards have that dangerous, purely Biblical faith that Alcorn speaks of, that leads us to the joy we crave — all found in the dangerous Christ?

There are so many marks on the cabinets. I spray. And this is what I’m thinking:

You can only be marked as safe if you’ve fashioned for yourself a God small and tame.

And what the world desperately needs is more dangerous disciples of an unsafe God.

I’ve got this spray bottle in hand of this skin burning remedy and I’m working away at the grime, my cloth coming up dirty, and He is this terrifyingly holy God and who isn’t compelled towards His purifying, white hot love and who doesn’t tremble at His refining fire and who doesn’t want to be made clean?

He is wholly unsafe and He’s the untame lion whose claws tear into the scales of my thick sins  and the ripping away of everything filthy dragon can feel like a burning right through to the heart. I need His perfectly dangerous ways.  

The safest thing to do with a God like this is not to play it safe with Him. It is to never get so caught up in keeping the traditions or hastening the innovations that we forget to throw ourselves headlong into His brusque and tender embrace,” writes pastor and author, Mark Buchanan.

“It is to never get so busy protecting God that we fail to take refuge in Him. It is to never become so preoccupied in our Keep God Safe march that we forget to dance before our God with all our might, heedless of the borderland’s rules, tripping the light fantastic all the way into the holy wild.” {Buchanan}

I may not know much what that means — but I unashamedly wild to know all of Who Christ is and to make much of Him. To glorify Him like that dangerous dancing David, regardless of any scorning Michals, and to let His sanitzing, sanctifying embrace enfold everything.

John Piper had said it like that:

I think it is virtually impossible to honestly say that knowing God, as God intends to be known by his people in the new covenant, simply means mental awareness or understanding or acquaintance with God.

Not in a million years is that what “knowing God” means here.

This is the knowing of a lover, not a scholar. A scholar can be a lover. But a scholar—or a pastor—doesn’t know God until he is a lover.

You can know about God by research; but until the researcher is ravished by what he sees, he doesn’t know God for who he really is.

And that is one great reason why many pastors can become so impure. They don’t know God—the true, massive, glorious, gracious, biblical God.

The humble intimacy and brokenhearted ecstasy—giving fire to the facts—is not there.”

~ John Piper

Until we’re ravished by what we see, we don’t really know who God is? Ravished? It sounds so — terribly uncomfortable and wholly dangerous.

But maybe that is the thing? Does God ever make His people comfortable and hasn’t He always called His disciples to the dangerous? To say the uncomfortable, to speak to an inappropriately erotic culture with purely redemptive language, to take back the language that’s been hijacked and tainted by a fallen and direly needful culture and use it to speak of His own startling, ravishing, holy metaphor….

The Farmer picks up the spray bottle on the counter. I change cloths. He reads the label.

“You know,” he smiles at me scrubbing the fronts of the cabinets — “sometimes safe is useless.”

He’s telling this to the girl in glasses who always sat in the front row right in front of the teacher, who kept careful notes and crossed all her t’s, who can find a game of UNO too risky and going for groceries too hazardous.

He’s telling this to the woman who has gloves on and is carrying around her memory work of Sermon on the Mount and is using a dangerous detergent to get down to the real wood because sometimes the dangerous is the only way to get down to the endangered truth.

Real love is never safe.

And there are Pharisees — and I’ve been one, am one — who are alive and well and who feel far safer with a dead God, one they seal up in a coffin of mere theory, one they bury under the sod of human rationality and tidiness. Because grace is a dangerous thing and too often those who speak the most about grace are the most graceless of all.

I have lived it too many times and who doesn’t need real cleaning?

I am just beginning to learn it and see it painfully in me:  The modern-day Pharisees focus on sin avoidance and not firstly on Savior ardency. What all us Pharisees need to experience is this: Ardency for your Savior is the most direct path of sin avoidance.

What all us Pharisees need to experience is the mystery of the whole of holy Scripture and real crazy love.

“The holy wild is always pervaded with mystery,” writes Mark Buchanan.

“This is a bitter irony. That a faith based on staggering mysteries –the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Cross and Resurrection, the imparting of the Spirit — should have become shorn of mystery, so plodding and prosaic, so mundane and managerial is a bitter irony.

It’s an irony that Jesus’ famous statement to Nicodemus, you must be born again, has in our hands been turned into a slogan and a formula.

Out of Jesus’ mouth, in Nicodemus’ ear, that statement proclaimed a staggering mystery.

It was the ultimate antiformula.

~Mark Buchanan

The Farmer sets the bottle of cleaning formula down on the counter.

And maybe real faith is seldom about formula but about believing in the dangerous uncontrollable — and being done with the controllable safe. Maybe faith isn’t as much formula as the mystery of being drawn to, surrendering to, the overwhelming love and will of the most dangerous Reality in all the universe?

Maybe I have scrubbed away the labels that burn and brand and bleed.

Maybe that winking Farmer has a point — the right dangerous can be good and the wrong safe can be useless.

Those who have His fire in their bones aren’t ever safe. Open Flames are always dangerous.

“You heard Granny’s up and walking about? Getting over the heart attack?” I tell the Farmer there leaning up against the counter.

I’m kneeled, an open cupboard in hand.

And I’m thinking of my Gran and me and all the heartbroken and faith fearful  and it’s like everything is opening up —

The heart recovers as it keeps walking dangerously ahead.

A heart recovers as it embraces the inherent risks of living. God met Moses on a mountaintop. Who ever said climbing mountains was safe? Where are those who are willing to be dangerous disciples of the unsafe God who is the safest of all? 

And a heart recovering, beating strong and stronger —

It can sound as loud and dangerous as thunder in the desert, a resounding pounding for a straight pathway for the God who shatters the skies wide open with all His wild truth…

With all His holy, unmanageable love that scours the dirty brave right clean.

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Related: When you have to figure out How to Survive a Heart Attack

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