Security Blanket: What’s Yours?
Anxiety. Don’t you wish you could wear a mask against that plague? Recently, Lynnette Carter, Artos co-founder and Board member, and I were discussing how easily our feeling overwhelmed slips into grasping for comfort in places other than God. She shares her personal reflections here, followed by two clergy spouse examples for you to ponder. May you be blessed in self-reflection about letting go of all that clouds your faith journey!
One day I was in a store shopping for household items and I thought I heard a dog bark. Looking around, I noticed an older gentleman with a big puppy in his shopping cart. A woman had stopped to lavish her attention on the puppy and his owner was beaming with pride. At one point, I heard him say, “Oh yes, this little guy is my rock.” I continued shopping, but I kept thinking about the increasing reliance on Emotional Support Animals (ESA), also called Comfort Animals. I’ve loved my own dog for years, but what are we saying about being Christ-centered when we proclaim an animal as “my rock?”
Long before ESAs were certified as constant companions to support emotional needs, Charles Schultz created a little character named Linus. You remember Linus with his trusty sidekick, the security blanket. Cartoon characters never need a change of clothes and their shoes don’t wear out, but I imagine that if Linus had been a real boy, his blanket would have been tattered and threadbare. It probably would have had frayed edges and would have been desperate for a bath. Nevertheless, Linus loved that blanket and held on for life. Considering its condition, I wonder what purpose it could possibly serve. Did it provide warmth or shelter from the elements? Was it soft and cozy? Seeing that Linus’ attention was divided — one arm holding the blanket and the other holding his thumb to this mouth, he must have missed out on a ton of hugs.
Linus was fictitious, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that many of us have had our own relationship with some kind of security blanket. They come in many forms, and most are mutations of a meaningful and necessary activity . I remember a particularly difficult season in my life during which I spent most of the winter curled up with a good book. I would come home from work, prepare dinner, grab my book, and slip between the pages to a place that was imaginative, lighthearted and far from the weighty reality of my existence. I read a lot that winter. Oh, I managed to handle the usual household responsibilities and chores. I think I even went to choir practices and Bible Study, but I was always counting down the minutes until I could wrap up in my security blanket. When one book ended, I read the next prologue and headed straight to the bookstore to find another one. Clearly, those novels provided a happy place for me, an escape hatch.
Eventually I ran out of books. I was reading fantasy novels, full of wizardry, wonder and good versus evil. But one day, I realized I had read the entire series. I looked at the works of other authors in the same genre, but could not find any I really liked. Thankfully, as winter transitioned into spring, I started taking long evening walks while listening to Christian music. I realized that I had forsaken the habit of enjoying music. I had forgotten the uplifting effects of hearing spiritual melodies and lyrics that had once been a prelude to prayer and meditation. Worse yet, I hadn’t prioritized my prayer life and my relationship with the Lord. So distracted by my situation, I only looked for a way out. Had I delved more deeply into prayer, my refuge would have been in God, His promises, His love, and His mercy that endures forever, regardless of the situation.
Why had I invested all that precious time and money into an exercise that would leave me carrying the same burdens into spring that I had hidden from throughout that long and difficult winter?
The problem with security blankets is that they become the center of attention. In truth, a security blanket masks the real need – covers it and makes us feel that all is well, if only temporarily. As we continue to place our confidence in them, the reason for the need goes unaddressed. Relationship with them, not God, takes first place in our lives. God created wonderful puppies, kittens and other animals for our enjoyment, but He is displeased when we worship His creation while neglecting relationship with Him.
A security blanket, no matter how harmless it may seem, represents a falsehood; something that was intended for a different use. For example, a blanket doesn’t provide security; a lock offers security. A blanket provides warmth. Similarly, “comfort food” provides temporary relief from whatever is troubling us. It gives a shift of focus, but when the food is gone, the initial problem is compounded by the guilt of eating foods or quantities we know to be unhealthy.
And He did not do many miracles there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58 (BSB)
I’m reminded of the time when Jesus went home to Nazareth. Of course, everywhere he went, there were people in need of healing. I imagine the people of Nazareth probably had a wide variety of sicknesses and I can picture the lame, blind and deaf. Perhaps some were demon-possessed and maybe others suffered from leprosy and were forced to remain isolated. How it must have pained Jesus to return home, laden with gifts of healing and deliverance, joy, peace and wholeness, only to be rejected because the people didn’t believe He was the son of God. They thought of him only as the son of Joseph, the carpenter, and they missed out on their blessing.
And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. John 14:16 (KJV)
Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He said “And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” John 14:16 (KJV). Imagine a Comforter who will live with you forever. When we receive Jesus as our personal Savior, we become indwelt by the Holy Spirit and we receive the fruits of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22. These fruits are love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control and yes, Peace.
The man with the puppy praised his pet, even to the point of referring to him as his “rock.” This is a puppy he has to care for. He has to feed him, walk him, take him to the vet, play with him, train him and clean up after his messes. And one day, he will have to say good-bye to him. When He does, the Spirit of God, the Comforter, will be there to give solace.
But if the man never cultivates a relationship with Jesus as his Lord and Savior, chances are great that he will probably need to replace the dog with a new Emotional Support Animal. Like Linus, if he is too busy holding onto the security blanket to raise his hands in surrender to Jesus, he may never know eternal, unfailing comfort.
When Jesus walked the streets of Nazareth with outstretched arms inviting the people to believe and be healed, He was offering Himself. He continues to stand with outstretched arms inviting us to drop our security blankets and to step into his loving embrace where we will experience His Peace forever.
Have you ever picked up these clergy spouse “security blankets?” You would not be alone!
- When we are hurt deeply by a congregation, we might seek comfort and solace by swearing off all friendships in churches that our spouses serve. Such avoidance can be a protective coping mechanism – useful for a time, but it’s not comfort. Only God can heal us, comfort us.
- When the ever-changing pastoral schedule consistently overrides the family’s schedule; we might seek a sense of control by trying to know everything going on at the church. We think, “if I could just minimize the surprises (budget blunders, funerals, burst boilers, hospital calls, you name it!), I would feel more secure about my life, our marriage, our family’s lives.” We erroneously equate knowledge with security. Obsession with our need-to-know can become an idol, and our anxiety never really dissolves into peace. The world shouts, “control!” But God lovingly calls, “trust.”
What security blanket are you carrying today? What spiritual practice of trust in God’s provision can you embrace this Lenten season, to replace your security blanket?
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