I woke up this morning with the word “tentative” on my mind.
Tentative is the opposite of radical. It’s safety and holding back. It’s a lifestyle that says it’s better to be careful, cautious, and wary. Who wants to be reckless? Or fanatical? We’ve been taught those extremes are definite no-nos.
A mom keeps her kids tentative by constantly reminding them of their limits and things they should never do. Not to say basic safety isn’t needed, that’s her job. But if she stops them from climbing trees or visiting the neighbor kids, if she keeps them in their own yard, drawing a mark they can’t cross, they won’t learn to explore and see the people on the other side. They learn to live cautiously.
A pastor keeps his flock tentative by slipping warnings of spiritual extremes into sermons. I wish I’d kept track of all the times I’ve heard the preacher mention “rolling on the floor” as a terrible thing. “You don’t want to be like those who . . .” or “Back in the day they’d . . .” Honestly? I’d rather see someone roll on the floor—whatever that is—than feeling stifled and knowing the Holy Spirit is quenched in a church. We’re so worried about what something might look like. Being weird. What will so and so think if I lift my hands or shout out a praise or dance? Whew, that’s too radical. So we sit tentatively. Cautious. One eye roaming the place for anyone who might be looking back.
I wonder if I was born tentative. I know I was raised that way, lived it as an adult, and most assuredly, passed it on. Maybe being this way is really about control. If I don’t go full gun, I can always turn back and no one will notice. If I put myself out there in faith, abilities, service, fulfilling dreams, following a calling, loving, being pure, worshiping, I may embarrass my kids (yes, this is true) or the person sitting next to me. But if I hold back, not really being myself or all I can be or all God called me to be, OR if it doesn’t work out, I can easily slip back into the familiar corner of complacency, unnoticed, and comfort myself that “it wasn’t meant to be.”
What would happen if all of us tentative Christians said “enough!”? What if we simply stood up and declared “I won’t be tentative one more day!”? A simple decision. Yet, perhaps, terrifying.
What horrible atrocities have been committed in our world—wars, genocide, abortion, hate crimes, racism, abuse, negligence, and stifling of faith—because of people sitting back and doing a big fat nothing? “Oh, it’s not my problem.” Ha! If we live in this world, you can bet it’s our problem.
What would your life or mine be like today if for the last ten or twenty years we’d been running straight for God with arms open wide, loving people fanatically, giving in extreme generosity, following the dreams of our hearts, and worshiping in complete freedom?
Wow, mine would look different. Oh, sure, I’ve had my times of boldness and pressing in, raising the flag of being sold out for God and His kingdom. Then something would happen—life, hurts, disappointments, grief—and I’d find myself tentative again, even about faith. I was the girl who carried a big Bible on the stack of books in high school. I boldly became a pastor’s wife at nineteen, confident we could face anything, even though I knew absolutely nothing about ministry. We worked in a mission church, started a Christian school, lived on little, and believed God for everything, including food. I faced life and got beaten down and got back up again. I’ve known what it is to dance and shout and experience amazing places in God. And then there’s the other side I’ve known all too well, my default: being tentative.
Isn’t it something how life or fears or doubt can lure us back into our little corner?
Well, today, I’m thinking about exchanging tentative for radical. Caution for freedom. For each of us, that might look different. To some it might be about meeting your neighbors and sharing the gospel. To someone else, preaching a sermon, starting a small group in your house, going on a mission trip, helping in a food bank, adopting a child, or even writing that book that’s been on your heart for years.
This morning I woke up pondering how I didn’t want to worship tentatively anymore. I don’t want a cautious faith that holds me back. I want to go boldly after God, confident in the things promised in His Word and in my heart. What if we only had one day to live? How would you spend it? How would I? I doubt whatever it is would be passive. We’d be doing something very alive and ambitious and on purpose.
Let’s live like that all the days we have left.
How about you?
Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; Isaiah 54:2
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17