Thursday, December 31, 2009

Put Down the Excuses

"Fish or Cut Bait"--a common phrase often used when relationships have grown increasingly troubled or have been stuck for a long time. Either fish, and move ahead with it and commit to it, or cut the bait, recognize that it is over, and move on. Quit dabbling, quit pretending, quit making excuses for delaying the decision. Make up your mind.

I think Jesus said something like this to people who said they wanted to follow him but that they had other things to do before turning that direction. One young man mentioned that he needed to bury his father first. Jesus gave a reply that seems pretty rough to us modern folk--something along the line of "let the dead bury the dead--you come with me. Now." Keep in mind that in Jesus' day, to "bury one's father" does not mean that there has been a death and they are waiting for the relatives to show up in order to stick him in the ground. Rather, that man's father was very much alive and might have many more years to live. The son was waiting, perhaps with less filial affection than he pretended to have, so he could enjoy his inheritance before turning his mind to things that really mattered. Like most people, however, this man sought comfort with considerably more passion and determination than he was willing to offer the Son of God.

The quest for comfort seems so harmless. What could be wrong with getting what we need to be well-padded first and then turning our attention to our spiritual lives, to eternal salvation, to making sure that injustice is addressed and the degraded ones be given a hand up and the means to live with more dignity?

Except Jesus said, "first, look for the things of God--then you'll have everything else. But when you look for everything else first, you'll end up with nothing at all."

I made a list recently of the reasons we float for taking the easy road to comfort first.

  • I'm too busy.
  • I'm too old.
  • I'm too young.
  • I've heard it is all a myth--why bother to find out for myself?
  • I'm not able to believe.
  • I'm not good enough.
  • I'll do this later, after I've had my fun.
  • God is mean and hateful.
  • Religion is destructive.
  • The church is full of hypocrites.
  • I'm too sophisticated.
  • It's just a power play on the part of church leaders.
  • Look at all the damage the church has done.
  • I'm too much of a screwup.

It's time to put all these down for a while and just look at Jesus. Jesus, the king of kings and lord of lords who says, "I am a very different king and lord. I will not take your power, but I will give you power. I will not take your joy and happiness, I will give you joy and happiness. I will not stomp upon you, but you may smash me--and I will still say, 'Father, forgive them because they just don't know what they are doing.'" It's time to say yes to the God who says, "I know I'm too much for you, so I'll just leap into your space and time continuum and become touchable. Come, let's talk. Come with your doubts and your disbelief's and your anger and your sorrow and your happiness and your pleasures and your busyness and let's see what we can do together. Step away from what you think is comfort and come to me. I'm here to complete you and offer you real comfort and wholeness, not to destroy. But you've got to come. I won't make you."

I know I've got my excuses for delaying the important things in life. Eventually, those excuses will bury me. Jesus offers real life. In order to receive it, we do need to actually fish--not pretend to do so. Just something to think about as we enter yet another calendar year.

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