Not safe. But good.
“Is he quite safe?"
"Safe?" said Mr Beaver. "Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
I remember the first time I no longer felt safe with God.
I had a tumultuous upbringing. My home life was such that I rarely felt safe there, and school wasn’t much better, what with my class having more than its fair share of mean girls and bullies. But in spite of all this torment, it never occurred to me to blame God for my woes. The theology I was raised with put all the bad stuff squarely at Satan’s feet.
Saved at a very young age, I clung to the knowledge that Jesus loved me and quickly learned to be a prayer warrior. God was my refuge and my helper. And despite all the bad, He seemed to protect me from the truly awful—or at least that was my perception at the time. Like a frog in boiling water, I had a deadened sensibility to what constituted truly awful.
Still, I clung to my convictions that God was my protector. Even through my tormented twenties, as I battled what I didn’t know at the time was severe depression and drifted with no real sense of direction, drifting even from the Church, still He kept me tethered, kept me close to harbor, kept me from floating too far to make my way back to shore.
Even after my first miscarriage, this conviction didn’t waver, despite by this point having altered my theology to acknowledge that nothing—including the bad—happens that He doesn’t allow. Still, I didn’t blame Him. These things, after all, happen all the time, to good people and to bad. Why shouldn’t it happen to us?
I quickly became pregnant again. Although I still mourned that first loss, I accepted it as a toll I had to pay on the journey to motherhood. But now, everything would be okay. Everyone I knew was praying for this baby. God had turned our mourning to gladness. We had every expectation that this time, it would go well. After all, the alternative was simply too awful. My safe God, my protector, could never be that cruel.
I’m sure you can guess how that turned out.
It was the second loss that broke me. Along with my heart, my faith in a God who would never let me be broken beyond repair shattered in a million tiny pieces.
He no longer felt safe. And in those days of recovery, He also didn’t feel good.
And yet still, part of me still trusted Him. I trusted that He could handle my skepticism. That He could handle my sense of betrayal. That He could handle hearing exactly how I felt about Him, if nothing else. I poured out my heart to Him, along with all of the messy hurt and anger and heartbreak. I did this day after day, until I had left was numbness.
And then He began to fill me with His peace—a peace like I’d never known, in all my years and decades of looking to him to keep me from this kind of brokenness. He began to put me and my heart back together, slowly, gently, piece by tiny, jagged piece.
He began rebuilding my faith.
I learned in the weeks, months, and years following that no, He’s not safe, if “safe” means He’ll never let you get broken beyond repair.
But He is good. Good enough to pick up the pieces. Good enough to put you back together stronger, and yet softer—kinder, gentler, more compassionate—than before. He’s so good that there is no such thing as broken beyond repair when He’s the one doing the mending.
He’s not safe. He’s too big, too awesome, too powerful, too far above us to ever be that.
But He is good—and we can always trust in His goodness, and His love.
This essay popped pretty much fully formed into my head a couple of Sundays ago, and I knew right away it was for this newsletter. I don’t know whether someone reading this needed that message, but there it is, regardless. ♥
I hope you’re having a great February! Or at least a not-awful one. February is probably my least favorite month, and this one didn’t start out great. It turns out that I can’t make up for lost sleep with caffeine at 45 like I could at 26 or even 36, and trying to do so sent my adrenals into a tailspin. For the first week or so I had no energy and existed in a cloud of brain fog. But after cutting back on caffeine and prioritizing sleep, I’m starting to feel normal again, although still fighting winter doldrums and February blahs.
The doldrums aren’t winning, though. I woke up this morning excited about writing, and that’s been happening more and more lately. One of my biggest goals for this year was to get back the joy of writing. I’m a born writer, but somewhere along the way I came to regard all of it as a chore, and also my job, something to be strictly limited to work hours.
But at the start of this year I remembered that I used to do this for fun. I used to do this when nobody ever paid me a dime and getting published someday was a far-off dream. It was how I spent my weekends and my evenings and my lunch hours, and it brought me endless joy.
Remembering that helped me shift my mindset around writing and stop viewing it as my livelihood and start seeing it again as simply part of my life. That, and taking the pressure off myself to earn with every word, allowing myself space to write what I want instead of only what I’m supposed to, have all helped me recover that joy.
Of course, so has taking breaks when I need to, because I am not, in fact, a writing machine. But I’m not violating some kind of work-life balance rule if I write on the weekend or after I’ve shut down and logged off at the end of the work day.
And also, it’s sunk in how deeply, richly blessed I am to get to do this for a living. This is, after all, my dream come true, and it would be a downright tragedy if I didn’t enjoy it.
What I Learned
I took some time at the start of the month to reflect back on January, and borrowing a page from Emily P. Freeman, I wrote down a list of lessons I learned last month. I thought I’d share them here with you. In no particular order, here is what I learned in January:
That I have the discipline to write every day
That showing up is half the battle
That small daily contributions add up to big things
That it’s okay to slow down and take small steps (a lesson I have to learn again and again)
That consistency is key
That it doesn’t matter if I don’t know the direction I’m going — all that matters is that I keep pointing my life to Jesus.
"It's easy to confuse a lot of activity with a purposeful life. Do what lasts; let the rest fall away." ~ Bob Goff
Links & Recs
I included a link to her Instagram in last month’s letter, but I continue to be impressed with Phylicia Masoheimer, who is on a mission to convince every Christian woman to dig into the Word and become a theologian. She just launched a new podcast, which so far has been great. And she says a lot of vulnerable words here about clinging to God’s goodness in grief and hardship.
And if I may use this space for a spot of self-promotion, yesterday I launched a new enterprise — an educational and coaching newsletter for aspiring freelance and independent writers, all about how to make a living writing. If you or someone you know might be into that, check it out and learn more at The Working Writer.
That’s all for this month. Thoughts? Questions? You can share them by commenting on this post on it’s home on Substack! Or if it’s private, you can still simply reply to this e-mail to chat with me directly.
In the meantime, I hope you have a blessed February, and that March brings us all warmth and light.
See you next time!