I recently read a quote that has lodged itself like a splinter, deep within my heart. Have you ever experienced this? It’s the kind of quote that, as you read it, the Holy Spirit seems to pull out His highlighter and bring it to life. It’s stuck with me for days, a constant source of irritation, felt with every move I make.
Here’s the quote:
“To disengage from the profound needs of those caught in suffering is to reject the call to bear the image of God. We all began in the protection of paradise, but attempting to make that safety our final state will, in fact, consign us to hell.”
Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak pg.81
I have been reading Andy Crouch’s book Strong and Weak with my Women’s Ministry team this summer. In it, Crouch discusses the idea of flourishing and theorizes that in order to flourish, one must exhibit both strength and weakness. He offers Christ as our example. Christ came with all authority: Fully God, He was able to perform miracles and defeated death itself. But He also came in great weakness: Fully human, He was born an infant, suffered from hunger, exhaustion, and ultimately was murdered on a cross by the hands of His own people.
As image-bearers of God we have been given great authority (Gen. 1:28, Matt. 28:18-20) but we are also subject to great vulnerability. Crouch explains that if either of these things is imbalanced there are terrifying consequences: too much authority without vulnerability and people become dangerous, too much vulnerability without authority and people become hopeless, and a lack of authority and vulnerability and people become withdrawn… blobs…shells of who they were meant to be.
The quote that has plagued me comes from the chapter discussing that last scenario- no authority and no vulnerability, breeding a withdrawn individual. Crouch argues that in our American culture this is our greatest threat. We are wealthy enough to stave away the threat of true vulnerability and comfortable enough to avoid too much authority (and therefore responsibility). Throw in the illusion of authority and vulnerability afforded to us by technology (ie: armchair activists…) and you’ve got the perfect storm. We can live our entire lives wrapped in bubble wrap, never taking risks, never experiencing too much pain (nothing that substances, food, or Netflix can’t help you ignore).
In truth, this quote is just the latest word in a three-year-long conversation God has been having with me. Over the past few years, He has been revealing to me this truth, gently, repeatedly, “Dear one, I did not create you to sit in safety”. And if He did not create me for safety, I’ve begun to wonder what that means for my children.
A few weeks ago, my church hosted Jonathan Lamp, pastor of Connection Church in Sioux Falls, SD, as a guest speaker. In his sermon he referenced Psalm 127:4-5:
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He pointed out that, as Christians, we are fond of quoting this verse over our children, but he challenged us to consider just what an arrow was designed to do, exactly. Demonstrating with an imaginary bow, he reminded us that an arrow is meant to be drawn back with all of our strength and then released to fly into the heart of the enemy.
…That does not sound safe.
This perspective challenges the very core of my mothering-self. It challenges every dream I have constructed for my children (except for the dream of them knowing and accepting Christ as their savior). It ravages my baseline belief that a successful life is a comfortable life and that this should be the pinnacle hope for my children.
Instead, these words force me to my knees, to beg God’s forgiveness for rejecting my calling as His image-bearer and actively disengaging with the pain surrounding me. It causes me to repent of making safety my ultimate goal. It prompts me to ask Him to strip off my bubble wrap and begin exercising my God-given authority to be vulnerable with others- flying in the face of my fear and my enemy. Then, it braces me to pray that He would begin to guide me, to teach me how to prepare my children to do the same.
I am beginning to see that, while my children were born into the safety and warmth of our first world home, that home is right in the middle of a spiritual war zone. As a mother my mission is to lead my children to Christ, then teach them how to put on His armor (Ephesians 6) and to stand in His power and strength so they can fly straight into the heart of the enemy. Certainly, I must keep them safe as young children, but over time, as they are ready, I must release them.
I’ll be honest, I am writing this to you without much of a clue as to how this is actually accomplished. But it is my hope that as I begin to pursue this conviction, I will learn and be able to share it with you. So stay tuned!
Have you felt God whisper this truth into your heart, too? How have you fostered an awareness of the suffering around you and what are you doing in response? How are you raising children who will wield both, their God-given authority and vulnerability?