"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The danger of safety and being sickened by nice

When I tell people, I don't think they know the depth of what I am saying. All they know is that they are shocked. When I tell others that I have considered being military, or police, it is utterly unfathomable to most of them.

“What, you?”

Yes, me.

Is that so hard to believe?

My heart still turns back to that sort of life despite my leaving it for a very different one. I still am drawn to its call; somehow, that is why—though I don’t know why—I haven’t unsubscribed from the National Guard e-mail list and why I still look at internships with the CIA and why my eyes still linger on that military recruitment office next to Kohls. I have come so close e-mailing a recruiter—to starting the process—but I never quite do. It is never quite time, it is never quite right. It simply does not seem to be a place where I can go at the moment without tying my hands from other, greater passions with which the Lord has blessed me.

But I still wonder, why. Why, somehow, do I feel like a life like that has such an element of going home? Going home—touching maia—such a feeling means I need to learn something and I have been missing something. It means this every single time. What part of me longs to be fulfilled in that life and it is starving for it here, in this life? What are those longings trying to say? For they are speaking, and when they speak to my heart, I am learning to listen with my soul.

I have prayed about this a great deal, lately, and I think, perhaps, it has to do with being safe. I enjoy attending my college, but there is one part of it that almost caused me to not attend. There is one element that has proven to be one of my greatest disappointments and yet I knew would come.

People are too nice.

I am too nice.

And we are all much, much too safe.

Such sickening niceness is like living in lukewarm water, with nothing ever slapping you in the face and forcing you to come to terms and no one telling you to shut up and do it and never seeing a fighting passion in a person. It is choking down raw dough because you are afraid of the fire that will bake it to bread. It is saying you would die for Christ and then living in such drowning niceness that you won’t even speak up for what you believe about Him. It is always starting every sentence with, "I feel..." or "It seems..." or "Perhaps..." instead of, "I know..." or "I believe." We become so compartmentalized we don’t even understand what it is to have rock-hard rules and unbreakable standards; we are so horrified by a single swear word we cannot see behind it to admire a passionate life.

Instead we live slowly. We live so slowly.

It sickens me. I want to see anger and heat and fire and argument. We hem and haw, shuffle around, don’t want to be seen and don’t want to be heard. We never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or push anyone past a place they don’t want to go. We all go down to the lowest common denominator instead of pushing up to the highest one.

And it's not just about us. We are so terrified of offending that we live in a box where we are sure everyone around us can feel absolutely safe. If I lived around many of these people my whole life I would never get a strong word, never get a reprimand, and never be forced to do anything hard that wrenched my very being.

In other words, I would never live.

I want to stop feeling safe. And maybe I want it so much from others because I want it in myself. When people cannot believe I could ever want to enter the military, I fear for myself. Am I so passive, so full of deathly niceness, that they see no fight and passion in me at all? I feel so horribly passive so often. I am nice and smile and nod, and it’s not that I don’t believe in solid truth and things worth fighting for. I do. I do with all my heart. But sometimes I feel so lost and shackled by nice that I almost can’t stand myself.

And I think that is what I admire—rightly or wrongly, whether from a romanticized view or not, I don’t know—about the military, about defense, about that sort of life. It seems like a place where there is still right and wrong and people still live it. It seems like a place where people will still tell you no and people will still raise their voice and people will still use force and people will still pour out endless passion and where rules and deadlines mean something and where excellence hasn't been dragged down to the lowest common denominator. It’s a place where you may not feel safe—because you were not safe.

Maybe I’m wrong. But I hope I’m not.

I do not want to be safe. Not for myself. And not for others. In fact, I believe that one of the greatest disservices I can do to another is to be too nice—to never push, never correct, never help, never change—to leave them alone forever.

It is not that I do not want to have values, and standards, and hope, and morality, and love. I want to be good. But no one ever said being good meant you had to be safe.

In fact, it seems that being good is quite the opposite.

[Mrs. Beaver replied,]“If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
"Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
~The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis