by Jude Southerland Kessler … https://www.johnlennonseries.
Face it … we love comfort food and old jeans and weathered cowboy boots and more often than not, the same football team our grandparents and parents once supported. We seek out our old, familiar haunts. We order “the usual.” Humans crave routine, sometimes referred to as “tradition.”
But if we’re being honest with ourselves, that sort of safety zone gets us nowhere. In fact, William G. T. Shedd once famously said, “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are made for.”
The Beatles knew this. It would have been “a slice of scone” to remain in Liverpool and play The Cavern Club “of a lunchtime” and in the evening sessions. They would have been the rave of Merseyside, the kings of their hometown. But John Lennon had his eye on something better. He called it “The Toppermost of the Poppermost.” He dreamed of being “bigger ’n Elvis.”
So, in December of 1960, when John, Paul, George, and Pete (Pete Best … Ringo, at that time, was still the drummer for Rory Storm and The Hurricanes) returned to Liverpool from four successful months in Hamburg, Germany, some pivotal things happened. George got a job as an electrician’s mate. Paul went back to school at the Liverpool Institute, training to become a teacher. Pete joined another band. All of them – except John – returned to a life that was customary. Safe and comfortable.
But John wouldn’t have it. He went from house to house, rounding up his band. “What are you doin’?!!!” he asked them all. “You can’t go back to school! You can’t take another job! We’re goin’ to be famous! We have to keep at it! We’re destined for the ‘toppermost of the poppermost!’ We can’t afford to rest on our laurels…or anythin’ else!”
And so very hesitantly, the others followed suit. They risked their “sure things” to roll the dice for the grand. To paraphrase my friend Bobby Harling in “Steel Magnolias,” John preferred a few moments of wonderful to a life of “ho hum.” And he inspired his mates to aim for that as well.
Christian writer C. S. Lewis, in his book The Business of Heaven, exhorts us to do the same thing with the days and years we are given. He admits: “I am a safety-first creature. Of all the arguments against love, NONE makes so strong an appeal to my nature as, “Careful! This might lead to suffering!”
“But,” Lewis goes on to say, “when I respond to that appeal [to play it safe], I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from [God]. If I am sure of anything, I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. In fact, I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less.”
When I first read that quote a few years ago, I have to admit, I seriously questioned it. Risk??? Really??? My parents had taught me to avoid risk of any kind. For years, my mother had routinely reminded me to “be as safe as you know how to be.” I wondered if Mr. Lewis’s Bible was a different version than mine.
But as I searched the pages of the Old Testament, looking for answers, I encountered Abraham being urged to follow God blindly to a place that Abraham had never heard of before. Then, Joseph was asked to invite his father – and his brothers who had cast him into slavery – to live with him in a reunion of love and forgiveness. Similarly, God asked Jonah to go to the wicked city of Nineveh to preach amidst people who might tear him to ribbons. And God regularly asked the prophets to stand in the city streets and shout admonishments from heaven. NONE of these things were safe … or easy.
Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus sent his disciples out to preach without anything .. .without food, medical supplies, a change of clothes, or even letters of recommendation. They were told to go and witness to all nations…and to get on with it! Time and time again, men and women of faith were asked, encouraged, and downright nudged into stepping out of their comfort zone and doing things that were bold and unfamiliar.
When John, Paul, George, and Pete gave up “the familiar” and committed to marching boldly into the unknown, big things happened. On 27 December, 1960, they reunited at Litherland Town Hall. The Deltones, The Delrays, and the very popular Searchers performed first. Then, The Beatles took the stage and began to perform. I don’t know for sure what was “different” that night. Maybe it was the retinue of new songs the boys had learned in Hamburg…or the black leather outfits and cowboy boots that they wore. Or maybe, it was the unfaltering commitment to get to the “toppermost of the poppermost” that shone in their eyes and resonated in their voices. But that night for the first time, girls swarmed the stage. In numbers. And they screamed and screamed and screamed. That evening, in a little town just outside of Liverpool, Beatlemania was born – only days after John had convinced the boys to risk. To believe in possibility. To give it their all … nothing less.
Some of us have heard a call to DO something … to achieve something … to move forward. Maybe as we read this together, we’re clinging to the comfortable. Maybe we’re being as safe as we know how to be. I think that is the last place God wants us to dwell. It may be time to weigh anchor and get on with it.