9.02.2006

Sheltered

You often hear people talk about living "the sheltered life." You get
the image of a cove that is protected from the winds and waves of the
fearsome ocean. Some people spend all of their energy trying to find
that cove, and once they're there, to keep the ocean away. Who can
blame them: the ocean is not to be trifled with, and life in the cove
is, in contrast, so free and easy.

It's a false hope, though. In life, there is no such thing as a cove
that can keep you from the ocean. Life isn't the cove; it's the
ocean. And while you might have seasons in the cove, the ocean keeps
spilling in, no matter how hard you try to keep it at bay.

Some people think the suburbs can be the cove. If we get away from
all the crime and all the pollution, and get ourselves into the wide
open and into good schools, we can avoid the ocean altogether. And
yet the ocean keeps spilling in: people find themselves disillusioned
with their childrens' educational experiences, violence still happens
in the burbs, and dysfunction doesn't leave our psyches and our
families just because we've changed zip codes.

Thinking you can find the cove is certainly one way to approach life.
When this is found to be a vain search, a second approach is often
disillusionment, cynicism, and settling. This too is far less than
what life ought to be, as is a "shiny happy" approach, which breezily
admits that life has it's ups and downs, and let's just be grateful
for the ups and level about the downs.

The Christian life, believing God to be the author of life, offers, in
my opinion, a better way to do life. The Christian life is brutally
honest about the fearsomeness of the ocean. But it believes that in
that fearsomeness there is true living.

When we open ourselves up to truly living, bad stuff does indeed spill
in. But instead of running from the messiness -- the broken marriages
and substance abuse and street violence and unjust systems -- we sit
in it, touching others compassionately and ourselves being comforted
by God. We open ourselves to feeling pain and betrayal and anger, but
we open ourselves also to truly feeling, to truly grasping and
experiencing life in all of its vividness. We have real
relationships, real connection to God, real appreciation of life and
love.

Of course, what gives us the courage and perspective and anchor to do
all this is that we know the One who is stronger than the ocean that
is stronger than us. And we know that eventually He will bring us to
a perfect cove and vanquish the ocean forever. Until then, let us go
boldly into the ocean, not just to seize the life that there is in
there, but to proclaim that life to others.

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