Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 226: Isaiah 28-30; Psalm 35; I Timothy 4

As Safe As Houses

How do we find, and assure ourselves, of a sense of being "safe?" We look for, and often assume, that the assurances given us that any one thing means we are safe should somehow be enduring, steadfast or somehow tender a guarantee that if we trust in them, well then we will be able to weather any challenge--even an act of God. What do you trust in? What do you have that assures you that you are safe? Look around, some things might be apparent. Others less so, but all of us maintain a matrix of assumptions that certain things contribute to our sense of being protected, or of being able to maintain our sense of well-being in the face of the unpredictability of life.

What do you have, to protect you? How would you answer?

"I have..."

  • education
  • a gun
  • money
  • power
  • influence
  • history in this place
  • access to people who can make things happen
  • class
  • the right name
  • the right color
  • the right religion
  • the right passport
  • the skills
  • the experience
  • wisdom
  • resources
  • a lot of food
  • a really, really good sump pump
Can you say yes to any one of these? To more than one? Is there any pride to take in possessing these?

In the end, though, can anything really keep us safe? There is always that moment when all that we have, all that we rely on is not quite enough to overcome the threats and crises of our lives. In those moments, we find it easier to pray than at other times. We also know what it feels like to be the people of Israel in today's readings from Isaiah. The problem is, in Isaiah, the people are turning toward one earthly superpower (Egypt) for protection from another (Assyria). God, through the prophet, reminds the people that real salvation doesn't come from earthly power. That sort of power is ultimately unsustainable apart from it being aligned with God's will...and Egypt is not aligned with God's will. 

Therein rises that reference to the saying noted above, "as safe as houses." It is a relatively late aphorism in the English language. (For the origin, see this link.) A British quip, it seeks to assure the hearer that whatever the need for security is at this moment, whatever assurance is necessary...it is THIS...and it is as "safe as houses." Brilliant.

Unless you live in 2013, and were a homeowner who weathered the real estate bust of 2008. Even houses (and the investments we entrust to them) aren't that safe.

So, to whom do we turn to for safety? In whom do we place our trust? The simple answer is "God." Putting that answer into practice, though, is the real challenge. It's hard to discipline our being into the habit of really trusting in God on a day-to-day, realistic and undistracted reliance on the Almighty. We hear the Psalmist invoke God as both protector and advocate in the face of enemies. We note the writer of today's epistle offering of injunctions to Timothy to maintain a steadfast and disciplined focus on keeping God's teachings in the face of challenge. Are we ready to do the same? It means maintaining reliance on God for guidance. It means being willing to risk all for the Kingdom that is coming. It means being an active and mindful steward of all that we have, knowing that ALL of it is God's and we are but trustees. It means making our neighbor's worries and hopes our own...all while knowing that EVERYONE is our neighbor.

If we are willing to let go of looking to everything else BUT God as a source of reassurance, then we are willing to take those first halting steps into a new life in God...

Somehow, that makes the idea that being "as safe as houses" feel very small, indeed.

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