When we follow Jesus we abandon our societal sense of safety and self-protection. As we run toward him our affections change and we become “imitators” of God, as our reading today from Ephesians states. Right?
That’s the way God designed it. Lewis compares God’s creation of people like our invention of an engine that runs on gasoline. Without it, it wouldn’t run correctly. Likewise, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself,” he says (Mere Christianity). When we break our life off from the lifegiver, we begin to fade (like those in The Great Divorce). What God is looking for is the change that comes as Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader scratches more and more deeply and discovers the hardened dragon scales were falling off.
God is aiming for a rebirth. It means we’ll encounter the two edges of suffering and hope. But, Lewis reminds us in The Four Loves (and I can’t seem to get past this quote, having used it for our Valentine reflection) about the alternative which might appear safe but offers a damning end.
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
“I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness. It is like hiding the talent in a napkin and for much the same reason. ‘I knew thee that thou wert a hard man.’ Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.”
What are you in love with and how has it shaped you? Is it God or a replacement? If we are to follow Jesus, it is to a sure scene of crucifixion, both his and ours, as we painfully surrender our wills to his, our ways to his, our luxuries to his crown. Lent starts March 6. Let us use this coming time to rekindle again the risk and reward of the Gospel.