One of my favorite things about writing is that sometimes you go back to read things you wrote a few days, weeks, months, or years ago and see how it’s changed. I enjoy reading entries from my journal when I would write in my car on my break at work back in 2009. I remember, as I read, how much self-loathing I had; how I never felt I was good enough; how I always felt I had to perform well in order to have God love me. I remember seeing issues I had in relationships and seeing how – sometimes just by coincidence and not necessarily deliberate action on my part – those things sorted themselves out. It’s one of the primary reasons I recommend blogging and journaling to anyone – you see how you change.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an entry I called “Don’t Run.” I lamented my own tendencies to waste time, doing the thing I perceived as being “easier” instead of challenging myself to pursue fulfilling the call of God in my life.
Consider this post “Don’t Run” revisited, or perhaps as “Why Are You Still Running? A revisited lamentation of an unfortunate tendency” (because every good title has a subtitle.)
I write this because now I notice my tendency to run from God, but more specifically I notice the alarming frequency at which it happens. What’s this look like? Fortunately for you, reader, I have many examples to tell you about.
A few years ago, I agreed to be an “apprentice” in a life group. I did this with the intention of leading a life group in the future and being able to shadow my leader, learning from him in the process.
I took attendance.
I didn’t do anything else.
I was younger then, and I’ve done some growing since. But that is one example of how I chose not to step up and ask things like “what can I help you with? How can I serve the group? In what ways do you want me to take up responsibility for this group?” Instead, I just got comfortable keeping my mouth shut and not contributing. This is a microcosm of a bigger problem I have, and reason number one that I run from God’s call: I shrink in the face of leadership.
Somewhere along the line I got the idea that what I have to say isn’t important and isn’t as powerful as other people in leadership. “Nothing you say is insightful,” I convince myself. “You don’t know the Bible well enough to hang with the big dogs in leadership.”
Here’s the problem with that thinking: it puts all the pressure on me. Now, hear me well here. Knowing the Bible is important, and I admittedly have discipline issues when it comes to reading the Bible and knowing it. I know exactly where this comes from, too: when I was first becoming a Christian, I remember thinking, “I can’t read the Bible early in the morning. And I think that’s okay with God – I think He’d like me to read it when I’m a little more coherent and can focus more.” To a point, that’s okay thinking, but the most notable flaw in that is twofold: First, if you wait until you’re ‘in the mood’ or ‘have the time’ to read the Bible, you’ll never do it. There are endless excuses not to (which I’ll get to in a minute.) Second, do you have a better plan? Often times in our walk with God (or at least in mine,) we discount things as a bad idea because it just won’t work or because I don’t have to do it to be saved. Personally, I’ve done that with evangelism – when I think about sharing my faith, I automatically discount the idea of street evangelism because, I tell myself, “that just doesn’t work.” And God’s response is this: “Okay, do you have a better idea?” (again, not proponing street evangelism as a universal strategy, merely pointing out that we often think things are bad ideas when we don’t really have a better one.)
I think that there’s room in the Kingdom of God for new, innovative ideas for things such as evangelism, small groups, etc. But I think that an idea is necessary before we automatically discount tradition or the preexisting idea. That is, replace a “bad” (what you think is bad) idea with a good one (it doesn’t matter if you think it’s good if it’s not really good, therefore there are no scare quotes there.)
I do this with people, too – for a long time, God’s told me to be proactive in greeting new members at our church. As someone who aspires to church leadership, I feel it’s important to greet new people and make them feel welcome at our church. Basic, right? Say hello, introduce yourself, maybe ask what brought them to our church, and see where the conversation goes. But instead, my second form of running from God: I make excuses. In large part, this goes right along with the last points. Sometimes they are excuses involving what I believe is my own natural condition, such as “I’m not creative,” “I’m just an awkward person,” “I’m not quick witted,” or “I’m just naïve.”
Problem with that: I’m criticizing one of God’s creations and one of His sons. I’m also (again) putting more stock in my own condition than I am in the enabling, equipping grace of God.
But here’s perhaps my most embarrassing one: I just don’t feel like it. HA!
Who am I kidding? Who are we all kidding? In our culture, we “feel like” a lot of things.
“I feel like the Patriots are underachieving.”
“I feel like I hear this song every time I turn on the radio.”
Unfortunately, “feel like” has snuck its way into our behavioral vocabulary as a subtle way of saying “I want to.”
“I feel like having a drink tonight.”
“I feel like going out.”
“I feel like seeing a movie.”
And we, of course, use “I don’t feel like” a whole lot.
“I don’t feel like saving any money.”
“I don’t feel like staying any longer than I have to.”
“I don’t feel like going to work today.”
And I’ll be honest, half the stuff involved in ministry is stuff I “don’t feel like” doing.
I lead a Bible study on Tuesday mornings. I often have the time to prepare for it, but I “don’t feel like” doing it.
I am on worship team practically every Sunday morning. We have to be at practice at 8:30, but sometimes, since Sunday is my day off, I don’t feel like getting up any earlier than I have to.
When I’m at home on either side of going to work (be that before I go in or after I just got off) I often don’t feel like doing the things I need to do: reading a book on ministry, reading the Bible, preparing stuff for my life group, doing my life group homework, praying for my church, pastor, missionaries, campus ministers, etc. But here’s something I’m learning about the phrase “feel like” (and listen up, reader, you may want to write this down:)
The majority of the time, the very thing you don’t feel like doing is the very thing you need to do, irrespective of how you feel.
As people, we would do well to pick up on that pattern. And we like constancy, don’t we? We like that indicator that is a sure-fire thing. Maybe we can all pick up on that and catch ourselves when we find ourselves saying, “I don’t feel like it.” We’d do well to recognize that in any context – when we don’t feel like reading the Bible; when we don’t feel like praying; when we don’t feel like eating vegetables; when we don’t feel like making a meal at home and feel like eating out instead; when we don’t feel like exercising, the list goes on.
By the grace of God, I’ve been able to see some of my own despicable (and illegitimate) reasons for not doing the very things I need to do, many of them relating to ministry. Consider this an open repentance, but I hope that it also does the reader well, and that my struggles can be identified with, resulting in encouragement. God is gracious, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last few weeks, it’s that He gives grace to do difficult things, and when you’re concerned about protecting yourself, your money, your time, or your energy, it’s best to leave that sort of thing up to Him, because He can and does provide all of the above.