“Of course I can drive this thing!”
Never trust those words. The other day I was with one of my best friends, Noah, who happens to be my roommate. Noah and I were at our friends’ farm, and our friends have this joy-making machine that you don’t see too often in Virginia Beach: a 4-Wheeler. In things like ATV-driving or other dangerous motorsports, I tend to think safety comes fifth, not first like worried parents always claim. Not sure what 1 through 4 are, but not safety. Probably mostly fun.
Anyway, clearly I was going to drive this thing, and, of course, I’m all about driving fast. Noah, knowing my affinity for speed and recklessness, said to me, “You’re not driving that,” but, like the speedy disciple who outran Peter, I beat Noah to the 4-Wheeler and jumped on before he could do anything about it. After he showed me how to start it (bad sign,) I revved the engine and off we flew, through our friends’ yard towards a river at the end of a long downhill path. Shockingly, when you’re going full-speed downhill on an ATV, it’s easy to lose control. Who could’ve guessed?? Halfway there, I didn’t turn sharp enough and we raced into a band of trees next to a small creek. I braked (thanks Noah for showing me the brakes before we started…) and we stopped just short of the creek and a menacing tree.
No injury though, and no damage to our joy machine. I count that as a success, but still it made me reconsider this whole ‘safety fifth’ thing. If I got hurt, there’s a few more consequences to my family than just a cast or some stitches. Plus, life-threatening injuries don’t help the grieving process (or so I’m told.)
Okay, so let’s say safety comes fourth. I can live with four, probably.
‘Safety fourth,’ I thought as my buddy Max and I skated around campus here at JMU the next night. Skating down a massive, steep hill? Maybe my pre-ATV incident self would’ve gone for it, but I was older and much wiser now. ‘Let’s just keep it at big hill, not massive,’ I decided. Unfortunately my skate-boarding skill is at a similar level to my 4-Wheeler-driving skill: not good. Midway down a considerably big hill, my board started to wobble. ‘I can handle this,’ I thought. Then it started to wobble more. And more. I was approaching a wall exceedingly fast now, and if I tried to turn I would certainly crash. The only hope was to jump. I leapt off my board and my shoes (actually I was wearing sandals…I know Mom, I’m sorry) gracefully hit the ground, and I ran to try and maintain my board’s speed and slow down easy. One step, two, all signs look good. Three, losing balance, and by four, I’m on the ground, skidding into a pile of rocks and hitting my head hard against the road’s guardrail. Shoot.
Good news? I was fine, just a few band-aids and a little bruise; battle scars. Thank you Jesus that I wasn’t hurt because it could’ve easily been a lot worse. And with that, I decided safety just scored a secure spot at third.
Safety deserves some priority in our lives for sure. Noah does a good job of reminding me this truth. The funny thing is, when I was a kid I was totally a safety first kind of guy. Airports scared me, movie theaters made me anxious. Rules weren’t to be messed with or questioned. Something switched in me, I guess, but the point is, safety shouldn’t be fifth in our lives, but it also should not be first. It definitely should not be first. Safety comes third.
I could care less about actually physical safety most of the time when I talk about the word “safety.” More of what I mean, despite my chaotic, potentially idiotic stories, is stepping out of our comfort zones in loving people boldly, or standing out because of the gospel, or whatever pushes your “safety.” For me, the most radical thing that’s been pushing me out of my safe place is…being a freshman.
Being a freshman is hard. A year ago I had big dreams of no safety and running around the world, and now here I am in a dorm reading my SCOM 123 book. (Actually not that, I haven’t opened up that book yet…) It’s just crazy to be here with so many other freshman doing mundane, normal, school stuff. It’s humbling, I’m just some guy at some school. To the world, this is very safe, but to me, this is not safe. It’s hard to describe, but safe for me right now would be to just buy a plane ticket somewhere wild and flee. The thought of an international airport terminal sounds very homey; nobody knows me, freedom awaits. But I really feel Jesus telling me this is where I’m supposed to be right now. So here I am, unsafe in what feels safe to everyone else.
My favorite band, Kings Kaleidoscope, has a song called Safe Retreat. Jesus is my safe retreat; he can and should be all of our safe retreats. The past four days I’ve gone to a worship night every single night, because where can I go except to the King? When I’m restless, when I miss my Dad, when I’m frustrated with my failures. Jesus calls us to come to him. He says in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
My yoke is easy. I used to think this verse was about eggs. Turns out, Jesus is not an egg guy; this verse is about yokes that animals carry when plowing a field (I think…) Either way, Jesus isn’t saying “this is going to be easy,” he’s saying, “carry this on your back, do the work, but I’ll help you, and I’ll give you rest.” (New Sam Translation)
Jesus is first. What a simple truth! But we’ve got to remind ourselves of this daily. Comparison, pride, appearance, they all come after Jesus. Second? Others. I want to lift other people above me, give them priority.
Come rest. I want to live a worshipful life, and lift up our King daily. You may think to yourself, “Obviously Jesus comes first.” But does he really in your life? Is He your driving motivator? The point is, life is hard, everything is hard, we’re just all fools trying to make do. But we’re fools for Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:10)
Let’s be fools, putting Jesus first in a life of worship, others second, and safety third.
On another note, I’m working with some close friends, William Leaton and Sarah Stickley, on starting a podcast cohosted by the three of us. We’re gonna talk about following Jesus radically in college, the challenges that come along with it, and big issues in the world and what we can do about them. We’re also working to have influential figures in the Christian world on to have conversations about Jesus and their lives, and hopefully we’ll be able to record musicians live playing songs for the show too. The plan is to have it up and running in the next month or so, and we’re calling it The Freedom Indeedom Podcast.
More information to come on that soon. Thankful for you, friends!