Living life afraid more dangerous than what we fear

By Curtis K. Shelburne

I’m feeling a bit over-protected.

I wrote recently to make fun of some of the “lawyer litter” standing more as a monument to multimillion dollar litigation than to protecting the populace.

McDonald’s started it by pawning off dangerously hot coffee on an unsuspecting public, but as I sit writing in a Dallas hotel, I have on the desk a cup holding some scary Starbuck’s liquid.

The cup warns: “Careful, the beverage you’re about to enjoy is extremely hot.” I’m surprised I didn’t have to sign a legal form when I bought my coffee. Come to think of it, somebody probably should sue them.

Did they profile me racially when I bought that coffee? Was I so obviously “Anglo” that they didn’t feel a need to warn me in Spanish? What if I’d been a blue-eyed Spaniard and burned myself because I expected cold coffee? And the warning that was actually there was written pretty much in the King’s English (note the words “beverage” and “extremely”). Is that a backhanded slap against Texans? Shouldn’t they also have a warning in Texas English, something like, “Careful, pard, this here stuff’s dang hot?”

More basic still, Starbuck’s seems to wantonly assume everybody knows that coffee is for drinking. Why, with no warning that it’s a bad idea to take off the top, stick your nose into the brew, and suck up a lungful of it, somebody might drown. Shouldn’t we be protected from such danger?

I reached into my pocket a few minutes ago to get my knife. I needed to open a box. But no knife. I think it’s somewhere in my suitcase. Or maybe I dropped it the last time I hijacked an airplane. But I knew better than to try to carry that little pocket knife onto the plane. I like that fiendish instrument. I want to keep it.

Personally, I think Southwest Airlines should be exempt from federal regulations banning such miniature pig-stickers. Most Southwest flights have a least a few Texans on board, and, now that 9/11 has eliminated the element of surprise, I pity the poor creep who tries with a utility knife, or anything much shorter than a machete, to hijack a Texas-based airliner.

I also reached into my pocket earlier today to get some lip balm. Oops. I forgot. I’d remembered to consign that deadly stuff to the suitcase along with my very frightening knife.

Air travel these days is fraught with danger. Before we flew, my wife asked me if I’d turned my cell phone off. I’d thrown it into the computer bag just to make it simpler for me and the rest of the inmates lining up to be frisked by the guards. I told her, “I think it’s off, but I’m not sure, and I’m too sleepy to look. If it rings and we crash, I apologize in advance for any inconvenience.”

I’d be willing to be a bit less safe if flying could be more fun. I’m a good deal more afraid of bureaucrats than I am of terrorists.

That principle is doubly true with regard to faith. Living’s dangerous and grace can be messy. But the biggest mistake of all is living life scared—legalistic and cold—afraid to joyfully trust the warm heart of the God of all grace.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at