There Never Was Any Danger

hurricaneGod’s been talking about going deeper. I love it when what He is telling me in one place begins to be reflected in other places, when the song that He is singing to me softly begins to resound from every direction, reinforcing the absolute truth of His words and my ability to retain them.

I just finished reading Ted Dekker’s book, Outlawand was only  mildly surprised to find God speaking to me about going deeper even in those pages. (I’ll be sharing a full review of Ted’s book here shortly.)

In Outlaw, the primary characters learned to view their bodies as mere costumes. Through this knowledge, a peace that surpasses understanding is found. One who knows who he is in Christ; who he is in the arms and eyes of his Creator; who knows from Whom his very essence is derived, and the security of believing that his Essence-giver is indestructible, this one cannot be destroyed. Even pain is mitigated by the understanding that only the costume is being affected.

But then, a new kind of anguish struck, one that even the strongest character found overwhelming. Rejection assaulted him, loneliness swelled within him and for once, he couldn’t relegate the pain to simply a costume experience. This new pain could be said to bruise his very soul. And for moments, pages even, I feared for him. I identified with him.

But then, he went deeper.

You see, it’s not that our spirits, our souls, cannot be bruised. It is not that they cannot feel pain. But the truth is, the peace is found when we look a little bit deeper and realize, that despite the pain, there never was any danger. 

For those who believe in Jesus and have rested all their hope in His finished work, there really is no danger. Even if the costume cries and bleeds, even if the spirit weeps, there never is any danger. And that’s where the peace is found – peering a little bit deeper.

Below the surface, even in the strongest of hurricanes, the water is safe and still. A submarine need only dive deeper to continue blissfully unaware of the surface destruction. Far below the chaos, for the marine life, there really is no danger.

Below your agony, below your sorrow, below your physical pain, your loneliness, your fear; below, slightly deeper, there really is no danger.

I will bless the LORD who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the LORD is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy oned to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
Ps. 16:7-11

Book Review, Ted Dekker’s “Outlaw”

If I hadn’t heard Ted Dekker speak in person at the re:Write conference in Austin, TX, I probably never would have picked up this book. I like to read true stories and prefer a good dose of probability if not historicity in my fiction. To the casual reader, Outlaw, delivers neither.

The first 21 chapters follow Julian, a lonely, unattached, single mother perplexed by a mysterious song in a repetitive dream. Feeling as if she has nothing to lose, Julian and her two-year-old son, Stephen, leave their home in Atlanta in search of the dream’s source, its meaning. And here the story opens, with Julian and Stephen “tossed about like a cork on a raging dark sea off the northern tip of Queensland in 1963”.

A sudden storm capsizes the boat, taking the captain under with it. Julian is rescued alone by three indigenous warriors representative of three tribes collectively called the Tulim, living in a jungle valley by the same name. Briefly, Julian clings to the hope that she will escape or be freed and return to her homeland. But, she also wonders if life without her son is worth living. Perhaps she would rather die at the hand of uncivilized strangers.

Julian never goes home.

I won’t wreck the story by divulging details, but I will try to explain the feelings that, Outlaw, evoked in me.

Most nights, I put the book aside determined not to pick it up again. I wasn’t drawn in. I didn’t identify with Julian. The jungle setting and depictions of tribal life seemed to stretch my imagination. But somehow, perhaps a bit like Julian’s winsome melody, Outlaw, held some magnetic power over me.

Outlaw’s obvious themes are sacrifice and redemption. But what captivated me was Dekker’s description of humanity. Through key characters, Dekker reveals his perception of human bodies as costumes, our immortal spirits as our true selves and the freedom that comes from internalizing this truth. I could almost taste a new freedom; personally feel chains and inhibitions fall away as his characters progressively released their fears of pain, loss and loneliness and embraced the all-sufficiency of The Father.

A few things marred my appreciation for this book. Three characters seemed to simply disappear without proper closure and the demise of one seemed unnecessary and slightly outside of the narrative’s flow. Secondly, in the final chapters, it is a little difficult to discern between what is happening to flesh and blood characters and what might be happening to them postmortem in their eternal existence.

As for the narrative seeming a little far-fetched, the Author’s Note explains it was in fact realistic, however outside of the average reader’s experience. Dekker was raised the son of missionaries in the jungles of Irian Jaya. He lived among a tribe of cannibals called the Dani tribe. I particularly appreciated this revelation as it lent authenticity to the story instead of simple, wild imagination.