I'm not sure how to tell my children that God is dangerous. No doubt, I want them to nestle up to Aslan’s furry mane, safe and warm. But with enough life lived, disappointment felt, and loss endured, they will soon find out that he has teeth—big, sharp ones. He is good, but he is not safe, as C. S. Lewis said. And sometimes snuggling turns into a brawl.
My understanding of the Christian life has been rewired since the spirituality of my youth, which promised that every day with Jesus would grow sweeter than the day before. Yesterday’s sweetness has become today’s bitterness. A dear friend of mine is battling pancreatic cancer in its final stages. He understands that life with God is not always easy, that sometimes we wrestle with him.
The force of these thoughts hit me while reading Marilynne Robinson’s new novel. Lila narrates a heroine who has no misgivings about life’s sweetness. Lila is angular and awkward. She’s new to the faith. Her life was hard and will remain hard because she cannot forget her past. And she’s pursuing something.
Or maybe Lila is becoming aware that she is the one being pursued. Her stolen Bible (yes, stolen) maps her pursuit with unconventional texts like Ezekiel 16—which describes Jerusalem as an adulterous wife—lighting her path. Lila likes to camp in the hard corners of Scripture, which make one thing clear: The Bible knows nothing of saccharine piety. Like my friend, Lila knows that God can be dangerous. That at times we come to blows with him.
A Strange World
Karl Barth delivered a 1917 lecture titled “The Strange New World within the Bible.” The Swiss theologian actually used only the words new world, but ...1