I was with a group on a rubber raft going down a river whitewater rafting. We were about halfway into our trip and heading toward some rapids. Someone in the group who was rafting for the first time saw that part of the river had rapids and part of it was calm water. She suggested we go to the calm water and avoid the rapids. She hadn’t caught on to the reason we were there. We wanted to go through the rapids. That’s where the fun and challenge is found.
In his book Jesus Called – He Wants His Church Back, Ray Johnston writes about a new idol in America. “This new idol is so powerful and pervasive that it can dominate your decisions and determine your destiny. People who cave in to it see their dreams discarded, their hearts shrunken, their faith diminished, and their growth stunted. Its victims live with shriveled souls. What is this idol? The idol of safety.”
Johnston describes how we have become “the most risk-averse society in history. We are the most seat-belted, bike-helmeted, air-bagged, kneepad-wearing, private-schooled, gluten-freed, hand-sanitized, peanut-avoiding, sunscreen-slathering, hyperinsured, massively medicated, password-protected, valet-parked, security-systemed, inoculated generation in history – and all it has done is make everyone more afraid of everything.”
The idol of safety makes us fearful to open up our hearts and let somebody else in. We’re afraid “if they get to know the real me they’ll reject me.” So we play it safe and keep our relationships all superficial.
We’re afraid if we try to serve in a new position or in a way that’s different than what we’ve done before we might fail. It’s safer to just keep doing what we’ve always done.
If we invite our neighbor to church, they might say no. If we try to share something about Jesus with our friend they might have a question we can’t answer. When we lovingly serve that other person, they might not lovingly serve us in return. So we just do what is safe. We don’t take a risk. We stay in the calm waters.
The idol of safety can cause us to miss out on joyful adventures God has for us. In his book Johnston says, “Most people aren’t afraid to die – they are afraid to get to the end of their lives and discover they never really lived.”
Real living is found when you walk with the Lord Jesus and you take those steps of faith that He leads you to take. Staying in calm waters all the time is safer, but it doesn’t stretch your faith, help you to grow and deepen your relationships.
In 2015 I was on a boat in calm water. I was on the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The Gospel of Matthew tells of a time when that sea wasn’t calm. A storm came up while Jesus’ disciples were out on the sea. While their boat was getting tossed around by the waves, they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them. Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus invited him to come and Peter started walking on water. After a little bit he took his eyes off Jesus and paid more attention to the wind and the waves. He got afraid and thought he wasn’t “safe,” and he started to sink. Jesus rescued him and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-30).
For a little while Peter got to walk on water. I wonder if the other disciples later were a little envious. They stayed in the boat where it was familiar. Peter got out of the boat, and as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he got to enjoy an amazing adventure.
It’s tempting to stay in the boat where it’s safe and familiar. But joy and adventure and life is found in taking steps of faith and going toward Jesus.