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: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27brod.html?ref=health. 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.