I didn’t have too much trouble with bullies when I was a kid. I tried to fly under the radar, keep a low profile, that sort of thing. The only dumb thing I can ever remember doing was in the fourth grade. Sean was a year older than me, and he was the kind of guy who had a ticked-off look permanently etched into his face. It was like he was perpetually chewing on burnt toast. I don’t know. For some reason I’ll never understand, I stole his shoes one day and hid them in a storm drain in the schoolyard. He had taken them off to play kickball, and in a moment of boldness and stupidity, I made my move. He knew immediately it was me. I imagine it was probably because I was standing next to the storm drain. I was not a bright child. I don’t remember what he said or did; I don’t even remember how I got the shoes back. All I remember is the intense fear. I had an enemy. He had a very angry burnt toast face.
I suppose since then I’ve done what most people do. I avoid conflict like the plague and keep my head in the sand if something ugly is about to happen. I avoid danger and shirk evil, and my only encounters with either are in the safe confines of a movie theater.
But I’ve been realizing something. If we never have moments of terror – if the world never frightens us and the darkness never threatens us, we hardly need a savior. Really, there’s nothing to be saved from. If we ignore the problem of evil and hole up in our own little world, Jesus is little more than a preference – like a pizza topping or a favorite t-shirt. We put him on when we feel like it, but we don’t need him.
The people in the Bible who talked the most about salvation really wrestled with the darkness. In Psalms 56-58, David is overwhelmed with the hatred of his enemies. In Romans 1, Paul is eager to share the Gospel because he knows the consequences of a failed mission. In John 4, the Samaritan woman can’t shut up about Jesus because she believes he’s saved her from a horrible, unquenchable thirst for love.
So what are you afraid of? Where have you seen the darkness? If nothing ever keeps you up at night, maybe you’re never really awake to begin with. It’s true that the Bible says “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18), but if we’re not honest enough with ourselves to know where the fear is, love can’t do its work. If we don’t stare into the face of evil every once in a while, the radical goodness of Jesus will start to fade. I humbly suggest that you focus your prayers today on seeing the world for what it really is, seeing Jesus for who he really is, and seeing yourself for who you really are. Will that be scary? Maybe, but the darkness is where God’s light shines brightest. Just don’t hide anybody’s shoes.
Chris Low was a speaker at Junior High II last year and has played at Bodinestock. Check his music and blog out at www.chrislowmusic.com.