The Relational Economy: Safe Deposit Boxes - Part 2
- Tuesday, September 14, 2010
If we bury in a box that part of us most prone to wounding, it will not be easy to exhume it later. We do not simply turn a switch and become once again the fresh, idealistic, youths we once were. We do not simply wake up one day, throw open the window, and begin to dream again. No! Neither dreams nor tenderness of heart come easy.
What is in the safe deposit box must be recovered and may involve a long arduous process. I know. I set out to guard myself and approached that task with all of my efficient and studious vigor—and did it well. I taught myself not to cry and took stoicism as my philosophy.
I didn't really know or understand what stoicism was. I had heard the term somewhere and understood enough to think it was the way to go. A simple definition of stoicism is "the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint." I understood it at an even more basic level—no feelings. I took it the way I wanted to take it and understood one thing—no pain.
The idea of no pain sounded good in my stoicism lite but there were problems. The safe deposit box has its problems. I had no desire to endure pain and hardship. I wanted to avoid them altogether. I wanted to stop feeling.
I didn't really care that, as Christians, we are called to be part of this world. I didn't care that part of being human in this fallen world is suffering loss. I wanted laughter without tears. I wanted joy without sorrow. I wanted all things that hurt to just go away.
In the safe deposit box I placed the details about me that I didn't think relevant to the relational economy. Really, it was that I feared someone might laugh if they knew that I was a football player and a poet, a soldier and a little boy in need of a hug. Part of my tenderness went into the box because (as I was told) perhaps it was being too nice that was not paying off.
But a limited stoicism lived out through the safe deposit box can produce a safe but sterile life. C. S. Lewis has a beautiful passage that articulates the danger of the safe deposit box. He wrote:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." C. S. Lewis
"To love at all is to be vulnerable." To love at all is to risk loss and pain.
The invitation to love is not an invitation to emotional and spiritual ruin. It is an invitation to emotional wholeness and spiritual maturity. We exist, as Christians, in a world that is dying but we are loved and therefore "live more abundantly" (John 10:10). The protection for the valuable and tender part of us comes from the Armor of God and a renewed mind not from a safe deposit box (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 6:11-13).
If you have a safe deposit box, and I suspect you do, go and rediscover the you hidden there. Find renewed confidence to risk as the real you. I cannot promise you that all will be well but it is infinitely better to gain or lose a relationship having fully been honest and real. Then you will not have to wonder if what was in the safe deposit box would have made a difference. Being whole will keep you from wondering if a person rejected OR ACCEPTED the real YOU. If you marry, it will help ensure that no great surprises appear later when the "real you" slips its bounds.
We were not meant to be half-people with portions of our selves hidden for safekeeping. We were meant to be whole people wisely interacting in the relational economy. The truth is, we are not altogether whole. Sin has marred us and not only us—but all people. We hide because we are emotionally frail. I consider myself strong, but I will also admit that I was and (still perhaps am) too emotionally fragile. Some of it is our self-serving culture that teaches us to think we deserve everything.
Just to clarify, we deserve hell but live by grace.
We are taught that if we "work hard enough" we can have anything we want. What a disappointment to learn that hard work does not always yield the promised harvest. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes good deeds are not rewarded—not in our present reality. John Piper wrote:
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