Why We Can’t Write Safe

handcuffs-1078871_640I HATE getting into trouble.

The worst thing a child could do in the sixties was “get into trouble.” Those were the days of unsupervised Saturdays playing around the neighborhood. The days of screen doors slamming as mom called out, “Be back by dark and don’t get into trouble.” The days when neighbors, teachers, and total strangers could scare a kid into line with the phrase, “I’m calling your parents.”

I didn’t like trouble so I avoided it and became a “good girl.”

That’s not all bad. Unlike others, I came through the sixties and seventies with few regrets. Boring stories, but, hey, at least I do REMEMBER those years. I have friends for whom an entire decade is just a fuzzy blur with an Eagles soundtrack.

The problem is that for a long time I attributed my good behavior to virtue. It took me years to see the sobering truth that much of my “goodness” stemmed from cowardice.

My fear of “getting into trouble” made me a color-inside-the-lines kind of girl and while it’s good to do the right thing, it’s not good to walk through life driven by fear of crossing the line. Sometimes that fear of trouble, those coloring lines, that “good girl” goal, becomes a prison in which we lock the very idea God had when He conceived us.

Following Jesus isn’t about being good or avoiding trouble. Following Jesus is about following Jesus wherever He goes. Sometimes He leads us to color outside the lines (not to sin, mind you, but to challenge the norm.)

Jesus wasn’t afraid of trouble. His choices to obey stemmed, not from fear, but from a desire to please His Father and to do His will.

This lesson is important for creative Christians. (We’re all called to creativity since we were made in the Creator’s image but here I’m speaking about writers, artists, musicians, poets, dancers, actors, and the like.) In offering our creative gifts to Jesus, we must also lay down the fear of “getting into trouble.” It will take a certain fearlessness to inhabit God’s idea of us.

The disciples faced this struggle. Following Jesus led them smack into trouble with the religious leaders of the day. Matthew writes in chapter 15: 1-2a ESV: “Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?”

Ouch.

If I’d been standing beside Jesus when they said that, I’m ashamed to confess that I’d have been quaking in my sandals and probably a little annoyed with Jesus for “getting me into trouble.” I’d like to think I would have stood by Him but it’s more likely I’d have stepped back a little and tried to communicate to the Pharisees with my facial expressions that I had somehow disapproved of breaking with tradition even though I had. What a weasel, right? Cowardice isn’t a pretty thing.

A couple years back I attended a Christian writers conference, and while attending a workshop, I got myself into trouble. (I won’t mention names but James Rubart was standing in front of the room. Just sayin’.) This wasn’t trouble Jesus led me into, this was all me. I wrote a lazy piece of work and the instructor called me out on it in front of everyone. What I’d written wasn’t good and he said it. Directly. Plainly. With attitude. (Still not saying, but his initials are J.R.)

I hated that moment.

It reminded me how much I loathe to “be in trouble.” It brought me back into a hundred classrooms growing up where I had worked to avoid moments just like that. I kicked myself for being a lazy writer and vowed to work harder but Jesus wasn’t done with me about that moment. Later in my room as I prayed over my day, Jesus called me out on that piece of writing again. My problem, He explained, wasn’t that it was lazy writing. My problem was that it was “safe” writing. I’d written something that “wouldn’t get me into trouble” and the best gift I received was that it did.

I write a lot of words but I’ve learned through authoring this blog that the words God uses the most are the ones it terrifies me to write. If I feel like throwing up the second after I hit the Publish button, I know I’m on the right track. That fear doesn’t come from concern that my writing is bad but from exposing my inner self and writing about truth that is so real it scares me to put it on the page.

Creative people who follow Jesus must throw cowardice to the curb. Producing “nice work” is not going to cut it as we build His kingdom on earth. We are communicating a dangerous truth. A truth that threatens the prince of this world and all who serve him. We can’t be afraid of trouble. We can’t write safe – or paint or compose or whatever we do to His glory.

As we follow Jesus, we must take the stomach-plummeting risk of inhabiting His idea for us as individuals and face it, some of us are weirder ideas than others. Some of us create work that doesn’t fit in any box yet formed. It will take courage to follow Jesus to that weird place and stand outside all the other boxes that fit so nicely with the rest but remember that we are only single threads He weaves into an eternal design. He has the vision for the end product. He alone stands back and knows how my strange color and texture adds to the fabric of His work.

To my creative brothers and sisters I say this: Don’t be afraid to get into trouble. There are days to come when we will find that embracing the weirdness that marks our work today was only training for facing the trouble ahead.

The exercise of our courage is as important – if not more so – than the exercise of our muscles, especially in these times. So create your art, your poetry, your music, your prose like moonshine brewed high up in the hills that suddenly spills out in rivers onto the public streets, carrying with it your potent voice, your explosive understanding of the world, your heart which is 100% proof. This is the secret recipe for strength against the pressures of a culture that threatens to excise the poet’s heart, strangle the singer’s voice, and outlaw the storyteller who weaves the thread of truth into every tale.

Courage is a muscle and God is building ours with every word. Have the courage of your creativity and write on. Christians are being murdered simply for identifying with Jesus. This is no time to write safe. This is the time to step out, loved ones, out where we risk it all for the One who gave His all for us.

(Dedicated to James Rubart but I’m not saying why.)

What did one domino say to the other? We don’t have to fall.

James L Rubart has graciously written the foreword (more aptly renamed the FOREWARNED) for Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus). Click here to read just a snippet.  Do you need courage to write or sing or step out in the direction God’s calling you? Leave a comment below, contact me privately, or let me know you’re here by clicking “I’m In” on the bar above! Pray for me to be courageous in all I write. Know I’m praying for you!

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13 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Jan says:

    Girl, you fire me up! In a good way, of course. I think my writing is a little too safe. Go ahead and add me to your prayer list. I want God to use me to write His story – His message – His way. I’ll be praying for you, too.

  2. Marian Baay says:

    Great post. Thanks for the eye opener!

  3. Jessie says:

    I needed to hear this today. Thank you! The book I’m currently working on terrifies me. That’s probably why I’ve only written four pages in a month. Time to get in gear!

    • Jessie – do the thing you fear in God’s power. Praying for you!

      • Jessie says:

        Thanks! It took me a while to be obedient. I will be, but sometimes I wish once we decide to be obedient in what we write, God would just give us the whole story, you know? This one has been the most difficult to write. I don’t even have a plan! Thankfully, God does.

  4. Your post sure made me think, Lori, I write Bible studies and I have to fight the tendency to be “safe.” Jesus was anything but safe and I need to challenge my readers with the truth rather than hide behind a safety net.

  5. linda says:

    Sooo…I thought by the title we’d be talking about being safe, in that, everytime I write so much as a FB status I get message from various people wondering why I am writing about them

  6. Following Jesus is never safe. Our writing shouldn’t be, either. And yet, I still sometimes catch myself worrying that what I write may cause disagreements.
    I should be praying that it does…