Life Boats and Fire Escapes

The world is a dangerous place, even though most days it doesn’t even occur to us – the terror and the beauty of this world coexists, all the same. There are dragons at the edges of our map, reminding us that certainty has its limits, and that what is unknown to us cannot be tamed by a carefully calculated life – for we all get caught in the jagged teeth of circumstance regardless of the plans we make. So we hedge our bets, we gird our loins, and we keep one eye over our shoulder . . . just in case. We want to believe that the glass is half full – but it is the empty half of the glass that most haunts us.

Modern man might mock the ancient world for hiding behind its mythology and ritual, but in truth, he has come no closer to subduing his own fears and anxieties, despite his talisman of technology and the soothsaying of his scientific conjecture. Because in the end, modern man has only created the illusion of certainty within the self-affirming vacuum of his own rationality. So trust me when I tell you, reality remains unimpressed with our vain explanations of how the world is supposed to work.

I suppose this is why survival pragmatism is the holy grail of the non-theist paradigm – because it’s the only force in the universe they can pretend has purpose . . . worshipping survival for survival’s sake. And because survival is paramount, we’ve been taught to entrust our vaunted experts to regularly inform us of when impending doom is on the horizon. Because no matter how contrived or speculative the news, we’re inclined to believe it – we’d much rather see the boogieman of calamity coming at us, than to have him blindside us, unaware . . . we’d much rather trust in the predictable certainty of our fears, than place faith in a hope that we can’t control.

If we imagine a world without God, the pragmatism of survival is the most logical conclusion, given the fragile predicament of our vulnerable existence – because the predicament is real. So for those of us who believe in God the impulse to identify the safest exits out, very often becomes the predominate feature of our theology. For some it becomes an obsession, because if the whole thing is going down in flames – you better know where the life boats and fire escapes are. For such people, the predicament of a dangerous world has become so preoccupying, they can hardly recognize the beauty also present in each moment . . . because all they can see is a world moving, like a car crash running in slow motion towards its inevitable destruction and demise.

But when I think of Jesus, I don’t see him as a meal ticket, free ride out of town before the whole thing blows – because I don’t view my own survival as the centerpiece of my theology. Survival has no meaning, in and of itself – so making it to the next level holds no enticement for me . . . without Jesus. Rather, I am seduced by the beauty of the narrative of a God who sees me in my predicament and chooses to love me, entreating me to come and be with him. Therefore the terror and the beauty of this world are essential to how I’ve come to understand the narrative of the life God has given me. So as for that glass half full – I think I’ll just drink it dry and trust that God will refill it.

. . . and when I go — it’ll be love carrying me home.

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