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Intersections, Faith, and the Safety of Lions

There are special moments when my day job (teaching) and my evening work (writing) make an inadvertent intersect and coalesce into a good conversation. I have mentioned occasionally here that I am writing a book about the Beatitudes and subsequently spending a good amount of time living in those words, imagining Jesus, and the characters that might be present for his sermon on a hill in Galilee.

Every other year I have the unique opportunity to teach the writings of CS Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. It is always a fantastic learning experience for me to encounter a few of my favoritebooks through the perspectives of my students. Preparing for class (and with my own writing fresh in my mind), I picked up the Lewis classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and poured over it again to create some new discussion questions. Lewis’ representations of Jesus in parts of this novel struck me in a way they hadn’t before.

I can get chills thinking about the dinner conversation at the Beaver’s house early in the book. Mr. Beaver explains to the children that Aslan is actually a lion, and the sisters, Susan and Lucy, question the safety of meeting a lion…

“Then he isn’t safe?” asked Lucy
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe?”
“Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”

Course he isn’t safe.” Sometimes I wonder where that idea is in my own theology — and in my own life. It seems that we do all we can to make our Christianity extremely safe. Jesus even seems to be a harmless enough guy when I hear about him in church. After all, people who follow Jesus are … well, for the most part, really nice

I love taking my kids to the zoo when it warms up in the spring. Our local zoo has nice lions and my crew loves to walk over to see them on every visit. These nice lions seem little like Aslan. They are lethargic and blue, like a Miles Davis tune, and yet, I still imagine them glancing over at me and my family through their sleepy eyes with looks that seem to say, “you know you people wouldn’t be safe if I weren’t trapped in here.”
I am amazed at their beauty, but extremely thankful for the cage, the moat, and everything else thatprotects mefrom their reach. They are a far cry from the wild, powerful creatures that roam and hunt through Africa on the Animal Planet. I can’t imagine how it would feel to witness them up-close outside of captivity.

At times I work very hard to pretend the “lion” of theBiblical narrativeis more like the one at the zoo (or the one we talk about at church) – passively caged.

I know better.

Yes, sometimes it is good for my theology to think of C.S. Lewis and lions. Sometimes it is good to realize that this Jesus I am writing about is more than a little dangerous.

He can’t beconfinedto a cage (safely out of reach), pacified with doctrines, placed in a box, systematized, or chained down with bureaucracy… He isgood but also- wild, ferocious, untamed, unpredictable… and yet, isn’t it curious that we have somehow decided that following Him is a safe choice?

I wonder what would happen to my heart, my worldview, my church, and my family if I ventured close (but not too close) to the “Lion of Judah.” I wonder if we can really call ourselves disciples whileliving such safe lives.

(Originally published 2/17/11)

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