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The Threadbare Edge

Kryie eleison.  Lord, have mercy.

We demonstrate our significance to one another by being busy.

Important people are busy.  Productive people are busy.  Industriousness, not holiness, is the identifying halo of sainthood among the professionals of the modern American church.  The man or woman who works tirelessly twelve or more hours a day, particularly if the work is productive, is introduced to an audience with admiring illustrations of astounding self-discipline, along with a litany of personal accomplishments.

We imagine Jesus hurrying from town to town in an exhausting three year frenzy of breathless activity.  In this, we simply ignore the unhurried cadence of the gospels.  Of the three years of Christ's public ministry, we only have details for about 30 days.  We downplay his frequent escapes from the crowds. He often preferred to be with his friends.  He liked going out to eat and seemed to enjoy good dinner conversation.   We know there were some long nights of prayer.  And so, I wonder, did Jesus ever take naps the next day?  If he did, did he wake up feeling guilty?

I once had a lady with no church background in Syracuse, New York, candidly say to me, “I wish I had your job.  I mean, given that you even work twenty hours a week, what do you do?”

I was a little offended.  She challenged my significance.  So, I pulled out my pocket Daytimer (remember those?) and showed her my schedule for the week.

“See,” I wanted to say.  “I’m somebody you ought to respect.  Look at this, lady.  Take a gander at those time notations, those urgent to-do tasks, the long blocks of penciled busyness.”

But, as she looked down at the scribbles, I knew I did not need to say anything.  I knew she’d see no wasted time slots on the page.  No time marked out for reading.  No time pulled apart for prayer.  No afternoon naps.  I knew she understood what my schedule meant:  I was proud to be as stressed out, worn out, frazzled, and harried as any ego-driven industrious atheist she knew.

Pray like everything depends on God and then work like everything depends on you.  Sure, I can do that.  I simply have to live as a Christian and an atheist at the same time.  No problem.
...and then work as though everything depends on you.

Christi eleison.  Christ, have mercy.

I think I once dreamed I had a conversation with God.  As I woke, the vividness of it began to fade.  I’m not sure, but I think it went something like this…

“Let me lead you beside still waters.  Lay down here in this green meadow.”

“What?  Are you crazy?  I don’t have time for that.  I’ve got classes to teach.  Rehearsals to run. There are meetings I need to go to and decisions that need to be made.  There are people living and dying around here every moment of every day. You’re the one that commanded me to find ways to reach them.   I’ve got really important things to do today. “

“Do you love me,” he said, somehow pointing at my Daytimer, “More than these?”

“Are you kidding?  I love reaching people for Christ.  I love calling on those who are hurting.  I love meeting and planning and leading how the church can grow large enough to make a big impact for Christ.”

Silence.  Long enough it became a little awkward.

“Do you love me more than these?”

“How can you even ask that?  I love worship.  I love singing your praises.  I love preaching your word.  I love making the videos and designing the images and arranging the music.  I love working for you.  Working for you each and every day.  You know that.”

Silence.  Now getting really uncomfortable.  Just silence.  But I knew he was waiting.  Waiting and looking at me.  I was feeling a little sick.

“Do you love me more than these?”

Now, it was my turn for silence.  My mouth opened but the words didn’t feel right.  Like giving an answer for a test that, even before you write it, you already know is wrong.

He was waiting.

I swallowed hard.  “II don’t know.  I just don’t know.  I think I used to.  I remember that.  But, right now, I don’t reallyI just don’t…”

“Finally.  You begin to see the truth of it.”

I waited for the stinging rebuke.  But, instead, I heard:

“Now, come over here.  Let me show you this green meadow I’ve made for you.”

Kyrie eleison
Christi eleison
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.


1 comment:

The Heart Has its Reasons said...

This is great stuff. It is more than great, it is needed. I have seen at least one person end up exhausted and in a hospital because he felt that having the spirit meant being energetic 12 hours of the day.
It is something I needed reminding of as I struggle to find balance in surrender and seminary. Thank you.