A Note from Martha Lawley: This is the first in a two-part series on the cost of living our lives in safe mode.
I recently survived a serious computer crisis. The kind that makes you question the sanity of storing everything in a digital format. After a few moments of sheer panic, I sprang into action searching for a solution. Several difficult days, numerous consultations with “experts,” and a lot of frustration later, I discovered my computer had a virus. I’m still perplexed with the idea that a machine can get sick and wonder why anyone would want to harm my helpless computer.
In my search for a cure for this digital disease, I discovered my computer’s “safe mode.” As the name implies, this mode keeps the computer safe by drastically limiting any risks to the computer. To keep the computer safe, only the most basic functions of the software operate in safe mode. As a result, I was unable to connect to the Internet, use email, or update documents. Basically, anything most people need a computer to do.
This computer crisis got me to thinking about my own life and about the mode in which I have been operating lately. How often do I seek to avoid risk? Have I become more concerned about my personal comfort, safety, and security than doing what God has asked me to do? Truthfully, I often find myself more focused on the risks and an ever-growing list of reasons why I need to play it safe. But I’m beginning to realize just how limiting my safe mode has become.
How did I get from full-throttle living to self-protecting safe mode? Well, it didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow insidious process that began with a particularly long, difficult season of ministry where I experienced the full weight of the painful side of leadership. Perhaps you’ve been there—that place where you seriously question your calling and wonder when things became so complicated. It became easier to just play it safe.
As I’ve thought about the different ways I’ve operated in safe mode lately, I now see how easy it is to slip into a pattern of self-protection. For example:
- Masquerading: Playing it safe by pretending everything is okay. Impersonating our idea of a happy Christian woman. To pull off this charade we must keep people at a distance so no one will discover the truth. If you could not possibly risk sharing your real life—the good, the bad, and the ugly—with others, you are in safe mode.
- Pleasing others: Playing it safe by going along to get along. Being more concerned about what others think than what God thinks. What would others think if you befriended that young woman who has made some serious and very public mistakes? If she will have to find someone else to mentor her, you are in safe mode.
- Being uninvolved: Playing it safe by choosing to remain detached and disinterested. Let’s face it. Getting involved is risky. People can and do hurt us. So, we play it safe by not allowing ourselves to get drawn into new or uncertain situations. If the lost and dying will have to wait for someone else, you are operating in safe mode.
I once thought safe mode protected me, but I now understand that safe mode poses a greater risk than I realized. Pretending, pleasing, and avoiding left me feeling insignificant and my life feeling meaningless. Safe mode put me at risk of missing out on the next amazing adventure God had planned just for me.
Jesus came to give us life—not a safe, easy life, but an abundant, full and meaningful life (John 10:10). Scripture promises blessings for those who risk it all to follow God. (For example, see 2 Timothy 4:7-8.)
The Apostle Paul describes the life we are called to in Christ, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) That doesn’t sound like safe mode to me. In fact, it sounds a little risky, not to mention inconvenient and messy. Yet, this is what we were created for—to live a life that truly matters for eternity.
With God’s help—plugging into His power and allowing Him to lead me—I’m rediscovering the abundant, fully engaged life He planned for me.
What about you? Are you operating in safe mode? Have the challenges of ministry caused you to retreat into safe mode?
In my next article, I will share what God is teaching me about exiting safe mode and re-engaging in the abundant life and ministry He has for me.
Martha Lawley is an author, speaker and Bible study leader, and LifeWay Women’s Trainer from Worland, Wyoming. She is also a retired trial attorney. Martha formerly served as the Women’s Consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention until her family moved to northern Wyoming. She contributed to the women’s leadership books, Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, Revised and Expanded edition and Women Reaching Women: Revised and Expanded edition, published by LifeWay, and has written numerous articles for LifeWay’s Women’s Ministry website. Martha is the author of the women’s Bible study, Attending the Bride of Christ: Preparing for His Return. She serves her local church in various areas of leadership.