I am spectacularly clumsy. I have been known to fall over just standing because I am delicate and graceful like that, so while I was in Kenya, I had to pay close attention to my feet in relation to the world around me.
I traveled from an insulated world where possible injury comes with prerequisite signage and safety rules.
American to-go cups warn me the contents are hot and may burn me. The yellow sign warns me that the floor is wet and slippery. The guard rails keep me from tumbling down stairs, falling off things, or otherwise hurting myself. My kid’s feet skip across the rubber matting put down under the playground equipment at the local park. I cannot turn on my car without the annoying ding ding ding chiding me to fasten my seat belt.
But Africa hasn’t the time to be concerned with my hot beverage, my kid’s scraped knees, or the possibility of a seat belt when you’re sharing a matatu with 15 other people, a few chickens, and a goat. There was a three-foot drop off in the dimly lit dining room of our lodge with no yellow sign or railing, and I very nearly fell over it making my way back to my room. That would be a lawsuit waiting to happen in America. But Africa is a land acquainted with hardship.
I came back to my insular world and wondered if maybe the North American church has missed out on a deeper relationship with God and each other because we are so often surprised by trials.
We want a safe Christian experience. I think of the passage in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobewhen Susan asks about Aslan:
“Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“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.”
Yet so often, we’re surprised by injury and inconvenience, by suffering and circumstances. We’ve reduced our gospel down to a formulaic set of rules whereby the faithful sidestep the pitfalls of this broken world and instead float unscathed and isolated through their good life. We want it all and forget there is always a cost. We want safe instead of good.
We have taught a tidy life. And the reality of following Christ is there is nothing tidy about it.