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Lonely is at Least Safe

Erik Cooper —  November 29, 2010 — 3 Comments

You must risk what you fear the most, to gain what you long for the most.

It’s a truth any entrepreneur understands. But it’s reality for all of us.  Risk to gain. I’m especially awakening to this in the area of relationships.  Even my closest ones.

We all long for deep connection.  To know and be known. It’s hard-wired into our DNA, evident since Adam and Eve walked naked in the Garden of Eden.  Man was created to be real, exposed, authentic (“I’m out there, Jerry, and I’m loving every minute of it!”).

With each other.

With God.


But sin created a gap, and like Adam and Eve we cover up.  The essence of our true selves still (somewhat) there, but shrouded to expose only the “acceptable” parts. The partial me.  The pieces I want you to see.

Because the rest brings shame. The rest becomes a target for judgment and ridicule. And who can blame us? We have a history of destroying one another through exposed weakness. So stay covered.  Stay hidden. Lonely is at least safe.

And therein lies the risk.

You long to be known as you really are. In all your weaknesses. All your insecurities. All your fears. That’s a risk, and risk means it may not work out like you planned.  In fact, it may not work out at all.

But are you willing to risk what you fear the most, to gain what you long for the most?

When I was a kid I was terrified to go to sleep at night. The blue-green light of my clock radio cast just enough eerie shadows on the walls to bring my vivid imagination to life.

(You remember that rash outbreak of Russian thugs that broke into the bedrooms of 10 year old suburban kids back in the mid-80’s, right? Stupid Cold War.)

So I developed a little habit.

Every night I situated the blankets and pillows on my bed in such a way that my face was securely insulated in its own private hideout. An impenetrable fortress of cotton sheets and down stuffing with just enough opening for my nostrils to suck in the cool night air. No malcontent Soviets were breaking through this blockade.

As irrational as it was, somehow it made me feel…

…safe.

Fast forward a quarter century.

Just last night, I awoke submerged in a hideout of bed linens like Ebeneezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve. Flashback to 1986! And even though I’m old enough to know KGB spies aren’t repelling down our aluminum siding to steal my Facebook login, it reawakened that childhood sense of covering and security I felt being buried beneath a layer of blankets and pillows.

Ridiculous right?

No one really believes that a few thin layers of bedding would act as valid protection from Kremlin assassins. But my little self-made fictional fortress helped me create the illusion (at least in my mind).

I’m still really good at building “hideouts.”

Controlling environments.

Avoiding conflicts.

Sidestepping uncomfortable conversations.

Pushing off the difficult decisions.

(FYI: “I’m praying about it” is always a good one if you’re looking for a “spiritual sounding” cover up).

And just like my pointless shelter of pillows and blankets, these “strongholds” are just false illusions of security.

Every time I hole up in my own man-made sentinel, I trade in the opportunity to be truly hidden away I choose self-protection over God’s protection. What an absurd exchange.  After all, do I really need protecting if I’m not even out there where it’s actually dangerous?

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 17:8)

But getting there requires the courage to throw off the covers and risk the threat of those imaginary Russian spies. Let’s face it, sometimes it feels riskier to trade in our fake protection for the real thing. We run from harmless shadows instead of finding true refuge in the shadow of the Almighty.

Maybe it’s time to come out from under the covers?

Honduras Day 2

Erik Cooper —  June 14, 2010 — 6 Comments

Every great adventure needs an element of danger, right? Well today we got it (unless you’re the parent of one of our younger team members or someone who may want to travel with us here to La Ceiba at some point in the future. Then, uhhhh…I’m just making all this up).

The day started simply.  Sundays are slow in Honduras, so the plan was to use our free hours in preparation for the intensity of the rest of the week. We rehearsed for our programs with the kids, sorted all our supplies, and prepped the crafts.  Then we headed out for an early dinner and a trip to a Honduran church service at one of our partner locations.

The sun sets early here in Honduras, but as the warm rays disappeared over the mountains, we noticed it seemed even darker than usual.  The electricity was out.  And not just for our area of the city, but for the entire country of Honduras.

All of Honduras was pitch black.

This became clearer and clearer as we neared the church in a primitive, poverty stricken slum on the outskirts of the city.  Rick Mitchell, the Mission of Mercy VP travelling with us, expressed his growing concern.  It was too dangerous for us to stay very long in this darkness. A bus full of Americans in these conditions was simply asking for trouble.

We decided to exit briefly with a small number of the team to greet the pastor and packed house waiting for us in the blackness of this one room, dirt-floor church.  The faces of the children glowed brighter than flickering candles.  The singing, cheering, and clapping nearly drowned out the darkness. It was a moment.

Crash!

A rock from an angry neighbor crashed against the tin roof of the church reverberating like a shotgun.  The entire room jumped at the sound.  But the singing never stopped.  Almost as if they expected it.

We did not.  Time to go.

We quickly greeted the beautiful faces hidden in the dark, hot room and then headed for the bus.  Hasta martes.  Nos vemos en martes. (we’ll see you on Tuesday).

Then somehow, in the rush of people, two of our team members accidentally ran into their sponsored child! Little Anna Sanchez appeared out of the masses of people to shyly embrace the Browns.  As we grabbed for cameras to capture the moment, the pastor suddenly and emphatically insisted, “es hora de irse. (it’s time for you to go).  They quickly pushed us onto the bus and our driver, a native Honduran, hit the gas like the Dukes of Hazzard outrunning Rosco P. Coltrane.

We’re still not sure exactly what went down, but in these blackout conditions, poverty-stricken areas already more prone to crime, can become very dangerous.  Word spreads fast and there’s no doubt the pastor of this beautiful little church was feeling a spiritual darkness moving in among the physical.

We’re all back safely in our hotel and the power has returned to Honduras.  Thankful for the Mission of Mercy leaders who work so diligently for our safety.  But then again, who said the Kingdom of God was safe?

Bienvenidos a Honduras.

No Equity Partner

Erik Cooper —  February 18, 2009 — 1 Comment

An ownership mentality in ministry is a dangerous thing.  Sorry to say but there’s no equity in the Kingdom of God…at least not in this life, and definitely not for you and me.  Part of the purpose of this blog is my own accountability…to write things and share them publicly so that I’m more likely to live them out privately.  As I prepare to partner in the leadership of the launch of City Community Church, I want to go on record now as saying:  the vision may have been co-birthed inside of me, but by no means does it belong to me.

It’s a subtle shift of mindset, yet polar opposite at the same time.  One is selfish, the other selfless.  When I begin to act as if I own my ministry, my church, my leadership, my position, I begin to try and preserve what I have.  It changes the way I teach, the way I treat people, the boundaries I’m willing to push for effectiveness…even my willingness to step away if and when I need to.  Ownership causes me to pull in instead of push out.  To guard instead of release.  To be fear-filled and paranoid instead of faith-filled and courageous.  To play it safe and not to risk.

Ministry is not a career choice, it’s a stewardship.  So my challenge to all of us, whether you’re the full-time pastor of a large church, or the volunteer leader of a soup kitchen…hold it loosely.  It’s not yours.  Now I know you’d never say you have an unhealthy hold on it, but check your heart…check the subtlety of your thinking.  It creeps in unexpected.

Hold onto things loosely enough that whenever God speaks, there’s no hesitation in responding.  Don’t make Him pry it out of your cold, dead fingers.