Last week I listened to a Michigan State Police officer talk about our resting, unaware, unprepared state of mind versus the hyper sensitive, ever vigilant status of people who are constantly cognizant of their surroundings, and thus, are better suited to notice subtle changes, the out of place person or object, or the imminent threat of stress and danger that might be around every corner. The officer likened it to driving.
He asked everyone, “Have you ever run a yellow light?”
Of course, we all answered, some chuckling and stating the obvious that they had run one this morning.
“Well what do you do when you run a yellow light?”
We look for cops!
(There’s always one guy in the room who has to make all the jokes…it’s as though he imagines that if he doesn’t make the joke, the world might stop spinning so it is his job, nay, his duty, to offer an offcolor, uncomfortable, inappropriately times or contextually unnecessary, comment. That guy. It’s always that guy.)
“Yes!” the officer continued. “You also get your excuses ready for the cop that might catch you! You look to see if there is a car about to pass through the lane, or a child crossing the street, or whoever might be in front of or behind you. You are more aware. You know there is some potential risk involved and you are looking for the danger areas.”
While the officer was using this driving example to talk about being a good, observant witness, I started to hear it in terms of the church. When there is the potential for danger, for stress, for an uncomfortable or unwanted outcome, we are hyper vigilant. We are more aware. We ask better questions. We look ahead and behind. We consider what might happen if we get caught and if we might fail. We are ready and we’re a little bit frightened of what might happen.
And that’s when I’ve seen churches thrive.
When we are trying something a little bit dangerous – a little bit uncomfortable – a little bit risky – we seem more conscious of our surroundings, our context, and our experience.
When we get comfortable we tend to relax and our reflexes are just a bit off. We aren’t as anxious but because of that, we don’t see the semi-truck hurtling down the road toward us. Nope, we’re talking on our phone, playing with the radio, and not paying close attention. We feel safe…and there are few things worse than feeling content and safe.
Contentment is one of the great sins of the church.
We sit back and say, “Yes. This is good enough.”
The gospel is more than “good enough.” It is dangerous and life changing. It is aggravating and difficult to make sense of. It is powerful and unhinged. It is what we so desperately need yet are so resistant to embrace.
When we treat the gospel like our yellow light, I believe we will see the potential and act accordingly.