Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You Can't Do That (Or Can You?)

Yep. You've heard it. Probably, more likely, you've thought it: "You can't do THAT". And "that" could be any number of things:

1) Quit your 20 year, high-paying office job to become a barista (or doing something like that).
2) Say what you really think about your wife's outfit.
3) Train for and then run a marathon at a starting weight of 330 lbs.
4) Buy 25 bottles of Ny-Quil.
5) Slime people when they say "I don't know". (This applies specifically to things that you can't do on television).

You name it. There are always people trying to tell you that you can't do stuff. Either because of unwritten societal rules or inability and lack of training or knowledge, there are many well meaning folk who would appreciate it if you would stop trying to do things that they don't think you should do. Things that they think you shouldn't be allowed to do. Because it's weird. Or not fair to them. Or confusing. Or uncomfortable.

I've had some naysayers in my life. And I've estimated that anywhere from one-third to one-half of unsolicited advice regarding what I should do or want was wrong. And, it was different kinds of wrong. Wrong philosophically, wrong Biblically, wrong for me personally. And maybe, there have been some well-meaning people who have given you a list of all kinds of things that you can't do, too.

Don't get me wrong. This is NOT a "follow your dreams" post. I think there are times when people really can't do something. Wise counsel will let you know this. My real concern is why we seems to be so concerned with keeping everything safe. When life, indeed God, is anything but. God is the ultimate cheese mover.

I was teaching out of the book "Your God is Too Safe" and after a lesson, someone took great issue with the concept of the title. "God is safe eternally", I said. There's no more of a sure bet than Him, in my mind. "But in this life, He will prompt us to do things that are not comfortable. He talks about laying down our lives, in fact. That's not too safe-sounding." This person was adamant. "I like the idea of Jesus watching over us. My family, my children. I feel that God is safety."

This was yet another well-intentioned person telling me "you can't do that." You can't tell me what you're telling me.

I offered Bible stories of Abraham almost sacrificing his son, Stephen's stoning and Abel being killed by his brother after offering an appropriate sacrifice to God. God is not in the safety business, at least in this world. He is indifferent to the Safety Dance (although, from what I understand, you can dance if you want to). However, it didn't matter what I said or how many 1980's songs I quoted. Nothing was going to change this person's mind.

Much of the time, "you can't do that" really means "you can't change how I see things" or "you can't confront me with ideology that I don't want to think about" or "don't make me uncomfortable." Let me ask you a question: when issues like this come up with people you care about, what if you erred on the side of freedom? What would that be like? Would you be like Jim Carrey in "Yes Man"? If so, you'd need to choose better roles.

What would the world, or the kingdom of God, be like if we gave and even encouraged more freedom, instead of trying to stifle it? Would everything collapse? Would it simply develop a different set of rules designed to quell creativity in a new way? If it was for freedom that Christ set us free, then what does that freedom look like, and why are we not more free with it?

What do you think?