Friday, April 26, 2013

A People in Constant Motion Yet Unmoved

I'm a runner--of sorts.  Not the half-marathon-constantly-training-cool-running-shoes-kinda runner.  I'm more of the sleep-in-my-sports-bra-roll-out-of-bed-shove-on-my-shoes-jog-for-thirty-minutes-come-back-drink-coffee-kinda runner.  I do it because I need exercise.  I try to run five days a week.  On the sixth day, I try to take a walk, and on the seventh day, I rest.  Recently, though, I've read several articles and even listened to my doctor discuss the current research that suggests running every day may not be the best thing for your body.  And part of me is like, "Really, ya think?"  A pulled hamstring, a pulled oblique muscle, grouchy knees and strained tendons this year are just a few of the reasons why I have a sneaking suspicion there's probably some validity to the idea that daily pounding the pavement may not be what our bodies were designed for.  (And for all you veteran runners out there.  Shut your pie holes.  I know you're supposed to stretch, wear good shoes, etc.  I'm gonna start that tomorrow!) But in truth, sometimes I feel like my entire world is the same--constantly pounding the pavement.  And I can't help but wonder if we have a few pulled muscles, a few strained tendons because of it.

It is like we are a train at full tilt, an airplane careening through the heavens, a full on battle charge complete with war whoops, galloping horses and the pounding of hooves.  Always pounding hooves. My husband's, my children's, my own.  The constant cacophony of crazed feet keeping time to an even crazier schedule.  Whatever I liken our life to, it must be in constant full-throttle motion to be even remotely accurate.  We are a family on the move.  And I know we aren't unique.  In fact, I think we probably appear to be in slow motion in comparison to other families.  Just the other day, I overheard a conversation where one mom admitted to another mom that she hadn't looked at her daughter's homework in weeks because they had been so busy with other activities and responsibilities that she simply hadn't had the time.  I wanted to whisper in her ear, "I feel your pain, Momma.  I feel your pain!" 

I wonder though, if motion is one of Satan's greatest allies in disabling a follower of Jesus--not just any motion, but motion without a refined, focused purpose.  After all Jesus did call us to be 'doers of the word and not hearers only.'  So motion itself isn't wrong, and that's good since I'm perpetually moving.  But what seems to happen is that we buy into a mindset that insists activity and entertainment are our divine purpose and right. We have this notion that good parents enroll their children in everything.  If our kids are interested, give them the chance to explore it fully.  And it doesn't sound wrong even as I type it, does it?  And for goodness sakes, we mustn't forget that good kids are busy kids, so we arrange sleepovers, parties, and play dates.  Our youth ministries are overrun with game nights and lock-ins because we need to keep our kids out of trouble, right? (Yet apparently almost 90% of them will leave church within their first year of college.  So how's that working for us?) It's the motion movement we've bought into; yet we're all limping along with pulls and strains; and man alive are we ever thirsty.  So are our children.  Thirsty for the Living God.

"Why do you search for the living among the dead?"

It was a question the men at the tomb asked the women who came to treat Christ's dead body with spices.  See, they were behind the eight ball.  They came to treat a dead body.  It wasn't until the men asked the women that question that scripture says the ladies remembered what Jesus had told them about His purpose.  He would fall into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise again the third day.  He was done with the dying and onto the rising.  Jesus had a focused plan, and he stuck to it (Luke 24).  But we aren't aware of His plan, or like the women, we've forgotten it. The result is that we too are searching for the living among the dead.
And I'm left to ask not "What is my plan," but . . .

What is God's plan for our family? 
What is God's plan for our sports-loving-book-inhaling-thirteen-year-old? 
What is God's plan for our tree-climbing-animal-adoring-ten-year-old? 

We say we "just want the very best for our kids," but I wonder if we really mean it.  Because isn't the very best synonymous with God's plan?  And if we're really wanting to cut to the chase, aren't we a little too busy pursuing the very best to stop and ask God what His plans are for our children?

Wasn't Francis Chan onto something when he said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter.” 

In the end, maybe daily running on the treadmill of a society that is convinced that more is more, that bigger is better, that lessons and sports and clubs and involvement equal success, is causing more damage than good. 

Could it be that we're missing God's plan while we act like hamsters in a cosmic cage? 
Could it be our children don't need to be entertained, rather they need to be enlightened? 
Could it be they need to know they weren't placed on earth to get great grades, go to great colleges, embark on promising careers, marry, make babies, buy a house and live happily ever after? (And don't misunderstand me here, I'm not saying those things won't happen along the way.  I'm just asking if it is possible that we missed the main point?)
Could it be?
Could it be we ourselves need the same enlightening?

Because there is an entire world out there in desperate need of our assistance, and if we are busy balancing a life on a blasted treadmill, we can't help them.  We're incapable of doing both.

So while we run . . .
While we race . . .
While we entertain . . .
While we keep busy . . .
While we give our children opportunities . . .

Almost half a million children in the US live in foster care. 100,000 of them cannot return home. Ever.
More than 150 MILLION children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, disease, poverty, etc.
At least 3.5 MILLION children die each year because of malnutrition related diseases.
55 million unborn children are killed every year via abortion, 105 per minute. 3 per minute in the US.
Approximately 15 people die per minute due to nutrition related illness.
209 MILLION people do not have any scripture in their language.

 . . . people die, and they don't know God.

But, in the meantime, our kids got into the right University because they had a great transcript, lots of activities, and high SAT scores. 
We're busy chasing the proverbial American Dream and teaching our children to do the same.  In short, we're the guy in Jesus' parable of the talents that buried his in the field.  We're burying the greatest resource God has given us--our lives--under a mound of worldy pursuits and earthly treasures.  But it is never enough.  We're never satisfied.  We hunger and thirst for more.

"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.(John 4:34)

Are we hungry and thirsty because we aren't eating the right food?
And just what is the will of him who sent Jesus?  Really? 

We have come to know love by this:  that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.  But whoever has the world's possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth. (I John 3:16-18)

We have come to know love by this:  that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians. 

And for whom have I laid down my life?  For whom have I said, I'll forgo what I want so they can have what they need?  For whom?  Because if I'm gonna be honest, there's a part of me that doesn't want to raise my hand and volunteer as a foster parent.  I'd rather not go back to diapers and diaper bags, bottles and burps.  I'm finally past that.  And what if they have problems?  What if they're disturbed because of what they've been through?  It could get messy, could get inconvenient.

Carrying the cross wasn't convenient for Jesus, and yet . . .

But whoever has the world's possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person? 

And for whom have I surrendered my possessions?  I wonder what inheritance Jesus left for his siblings to divide?  I'm kinda guessing none.  Yet isn't that the thing that concerns us if we're being truthful?  We want to amass some little something here on earth so we can leave it for our wee ones.  We want to save enough to go on trips, to travel the world . . . or at least to Florida.  We want to add a pool, pave the driveway, buy, consume, take, hold for ourselves. 

Storing up treasure in heaven means surrendering earthly treasures . . .

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth.(I John 3:18)

And isn't this the crux of it all?  The answer to the  motion problem?  It isn't that God has told us to remain inert.  Indeed, He called us to action.  But the focus, the purpose of that action? 
Should not our strides be specifically aimed?  Should not our motion be in the direction of Love? 

Love won't leave us with pulled muscles, in fact it will expand our muscles, expand our hearts.
Love won't leave us with strained tendons; it will be a balm to the strains of others.
Love won't leave us with aching knees; it will lift a world brought to their knees by a life apart from God, to their feet.

Love walks.
Love runs.
Love prays.
Love builds.
Love gives.
Love feeds.
Love refrains.
Love pays fairly.
Love mends.
Love translates.
Love sacrifices.
Love lays down one's own life.

I wonder about those two bombers in Boston.  I wonder if they ever came in contact with love.  I wonder if there was a free camp like the one here in the mountains where my family is privileged to help during the month of July--a place where children come and experience the unconditional love of God--would it have made a difference?  Had one person brought LOVE to them, could it have changed everything?

Because in a world where people are constantly running, love moves too.  Moves hearts.  Moves lives.  Moves people to step off the treadmill of American Dreams and into the reality of lives lived for eternity.  One accomplishes nothing that will last.  The other accomplishes things imperishable.

Once, Joseph and Mary lost Jesus as a youth.  When they found Him, He spoke the now infamous line:  "Don't you know I'm to be about my Father's business?" (Luke 2:49)

Our Father's business is The World.  And He deals in only one currency.  Love.

Father, help me to move in your wake, to move in focused, purposeful ways.  Help our family to have the sole goal of being about your business.  Redirect, guide,hem us in, and strengthen our limbs for the journey.  Amen.