When I was a child, I remember my good Christian parents doing only one thing that hinted at dishonesty. Technically, it was not dishonest. We would visit my mother’s family in Birmingham, Alabama. When we arrived, my dad would call his parents (back in Augusta, Georgia) “person-to-person long distance” and ask for himself, Carlton Aldridge. Since he was Carlton, they would say, “He’s not here,” so the call could not be accepted. That was the signal that we had arrived safely at our destination in Alabama. On the return trip, they did the same thing with Mother making the call. Once we arrived back in Augusta, they called my granddaddy in Birmingham and asked for Allene Aldridge. Since she was not there, my Birmingham kinfolks did not accept the call but my Papa knew we had arrived home safely.
Arriving safely is a Big Deal. I have taken some miserable trips. I have had sleepless nights on an airplane. I have traveled when the weather was wet, gloomy, and cold. I have been stuck in the sand in the Sahara. I have been backed up in traffic in the world’s great cities. I have missed my plane. I have had headaches and sinus infections. Yuk! I have endured detours and delays, but, so far, I have always arrived safely.
Every trip does not have a safe ending. Some end in catastrophe. The newspapers tell us about the mega-disasters, the plane wrecks. Every time I drive down the Interstate, I see the shrines of one, two, three or even five crosses where someone’s trip did not end safely, but ended in death.
A lot of life is about “arriving safely.” When people have…
- jobs they hate, and
- families that cause them stress,
- uncertainty about the future,
- fear of abandonment,
- an abusive husband or a kid on drugs or the potential for bankruptcy…
…then getting past all those threats safely is really appealing. They want to be safe.
A lot of religious people have used the words “saved” and “salvation” to refer only to going to heaven: “Are you saved, brother?” The result is that people have forgotten the original context of safety, even in the Bible, is to be secure and protected.
Our well-being while we are alive is important.
I believe God doesn’t postpone his interest in us until we die.