Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not A Tame Lion

Mr. Tumnus: He's not a tame lion.
Lucy Pevensie: No... but he is good.

“He's not a tame lion.” Anyone who has read The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis or seen either of the two Narnia movies would recognize that line. It is spoken of Aslan, the great lion who inhabits Narnia and who shows up periodically, generally to bring right a situation where great injustice is being perpetuated. Lucy Pevensie, the smallest of the four Pevensie children, is able to recognize that while Aslan is not a tame lion, he is good.

Why is the distinction important? Because when we confuse "tame" with "good" we lose a gigantic amount of power and creativity. Power and creativity are two of the most important ways we live out the image of God that is stamped upon our souls. When we insist on taming everything, we really lose the ability to live radically good lives.

There was a great article in the NY Times health section recently on how our children really do need to eat dirt in order to build up healthy immune systems. The article is here in case you are interested: Spoiler alert: it concludes by suggesting we're all better off if some worms periodically inhabit our bodies. So, if you are squeamish about such things, don't read the article.

I liked it, however, because I'm growing more concerned about the need to tame (i.e., make perfectly safe) the world we live in. When we insist on taming it this way, we risk robbing it of its goodness. Let's face it: "tame" tomatoes, those grown on huge farms with carefully metered chemical fertilizers, grown to a perfectly uniform size and washed in a bleach solution in order to remove all possible contamination by field workers, simply do not belong in the same world as "good" tomatoes--those grown in rich, well composted animal manure, often uneven in texture, sometimes cracked and sunburnt, and then picked right off the vine and eaten there, with a saltshaker in hand. The rich flavor of the tomato is enhanced with the warmth of the sunshine having penetrated deep inside. The juice drips down the chin, and heaven enters in. But it's not tame. It's not washed and sterilized and checked for any kind of possible contaminant. It's just good.

About eight years ago I saw my oldest son board a train, headed for Mexico, his life on his back. He was well on his way to a conventionally successful (read: tame) life as a CPA when he suddenly sold everything he owned, grew a beard, and headed out to follow a dream. He thought he already spoke adequate Spanish. When he got across the border, he realized he didn't understand a word. He managed to find a bus to Guadalajara, where he thought there was a family there awaiting his arrival where he could board. When he got there, he discovered they had no idea he was coming. Fortunately, the joy of hospitality informed their lives (that is goodness at work--and there is nothing tame about opening one's home to total strangers) and they welcomed him and made him a part of his family.

He entered a school to become a certified ESL teacher and then found work teaching English at a private high school. His income was $2.35/hour. He wrote to me about jogging along the city streets often chased by packs of wild dogs. No, his life was no longer tame at all. But it was good. His increasing facility in Spanish eventually landed him a job with a firm that does airline financial reconstruction work, which then took him to Bogota, Colombia--definitely not a "tame" country. And there he met his lovely wife and found yet another family that made him his own. They have since lived all over the world, with one child born in Australia, another in Canada, followed by a year in France, and now somewhat settled in London Maybe. There is not one thing really "tame" about his life. But it is so good.

We've lost the spirit of adventure by our need to tame the world. Yes, when things aren't tame, sometimes we get hurt, or sick, or go hungry, or have heartache. But without illness, hunger, pain, anguish, we completely lose the ability to recognize real good when it comes. And we especially fail to recognize it when it comes in the form of Jesus who was also most definitely not tame. He called his disciples to leave everything behind, to live lives of radical goodness, to go all the way to death for their enemies. Jesus modeled exactly that for them--and was resurrected to show us goodness, not tame safety. It's just time to quit thinking we can tame our lives and starting living really good ones instead. It just time.


Southern Dreaming said...

I really like this. Thanks.

Sapience said...

Obession with taming our envirnment has created the "super germs" that we are now dealing with. I have never lived a tame life but it also was not always dedicated to GOD. He in fact used my living on the edge to make His presence and plans known to me. I agree that living in timidity is not what GOD would call an abundant life but any life truly dedicated to God will never be tame. Thank you for this post!

Angie said...

Wish you were on staff at the school where I work. You have such wonderful thoughts and suggestions for a more complete life in Christ.
I definitely work in a place that is by no means tame.
In fact I'd say that wild is a much better description of it. We fondly call it controlled chaos. Meaning that what seems like out of control is really working and lives are being changed each and every day.
We also like to say that what doesn't kill us will just make us stronger and wiser.
Ironically the ones we serve come to us, to add some kind of order or tameness to their lives.
Funny how too much order (tameness) is bad, but not enough can ruin a life just as easily.
It takes time, but most students I work with come to see the value of some kind of order to their lives.
This does not mean they are tame by any stretch of the imagination. It just means that they now have direction where there was once none.

Yes, I think you'd be a wonderful addition to our staff both as a teacher and a minister.
You know where I work, so I will not post the name.

Again, great thoughts. Thank you for sharing with us.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Christy, Thanks for the guacamole! I finally had the opportunity to read the my last four weeks of the Krum Star, including this article. Just as I was finishing up this evening, my young daughter needed Mama. As I was helping her, encouraging her to pracice cello, then seeing her thorugh her bedtime routine, I began to notice various signs of dirt, decomposing leaves, and old hay in and amongst her clothing. My attention was really peaked when I happened feel some material of more substance than cloth in the hood of her pullover she'd worn to school all day. Hmm... I had a peek in, and discovered not a small amount of dirt! "Quick, to the back porch, now," as if ten more minutes were going to make a difference. She'd already been in the car and the house for hours with this dirt in this sweatshirt. Anyway, out we went, and out we dumped a full cup of dirt from her hood onto the back porch. Then came time for laundry. The jeans from today at school were unusually full of decomposing leaves, as was the rest of her clothing, leaving quite the trail on the bathroom floor, before I finally said, "What is all of that?" To which she proudly announced that she and her best friend at school had taken turns burying each other under four-month-old hay, now much mixed with dirt and all of the leaves remaining from the thick fall foliage of her schoolyard. Aha! "And why, pray tell were you taking turns burying each other in the dirt?" "It wasn't dirt, Mama, it was hay." "Yes, but your clothes are dirty and leaving messes all over my h..." "Mama, it's not nice to interrupt me [full stop and glare from six year old child]. I was quiet and waited for her to continue. "It was hay from last October, when we had the fall pumpkins and hay set up outside at school." "Oh, I see." Well, I cannot quite understand why that is so fun, or maybe, yes, I can. And one thing I know... she and her friend are certainly not tame! But they are good! And they were having good, healthy fun! "Did you eat any dirt?" I asked. "No, Mama." Oh, well, no worms or dirt this time, then, I thought to myself. Guess the New York Times will just have to go on without us, because we aren't eating dirt today, just swimming in it. Thanks, Pastor Christy, for this food for thought, for my evening with my child. +peace, Janice Heidlberger