Thursday, September 02, 2010

Jesus Didn't Take the Wheel for Me

Those who have known me for long know that I have some easily identifiable personality flaws. Lest one think that I’m proud of them, let me assure you that when it is brought to my attention that I am exhibiting one (or more) of these flaws I am most likely at least as frustrated by them as anyone else is. Up until my pastor's recent series on the Spiritual Gifts (from the list in Romans 12), I saw one of my personality traits as a flaw — OK … taken to an unhealthy extreme it IS a flaw — but have learned that it may be just how God wired me. Tempered and refined by the Holy Spirit, it is a manifestation of the gift of teaching.

I remember some of my kindergarten classmates thinking that when they squeezed the sides of their little paper cups that the rise of the level of liquid in the cup actually increased the volume of the liquid. “Do this.  It makes it more,” they would say. I remember knowing that it wasn’t so and trying to tell them. I still do that kind of thing and it really annoys my family. It bothered me,though, that they thought something that wasn’t true ... not because I wanted to prove myself right (which is an unhealthy expression of the gift), but because I didn't want them going through life being wrong.  Being wrong about some things can have disastrous consequences.

While it bothers me when people think things that aren’t true about life in general, it really bothers me when people think things that aren’t true about other people because those assumptions tend to destroy relationships. And if those assumptions get voiced and shared, before you know it a lot of people end up thinking things about someone that are not true.

It really, really bothers me when people think things about spiritual matters that are not true. One misconception that has persisted throughout human history is the idea that God shows earthly, material favor to the righteous. Biblical scholars call it the Deuteronomic Formula, and it goes something like this: If you do good, God will bless; if you do bad, God will curse. And blessing means health and wealth.  That's one thing that keeps "Facing the Giants" from being a really good movie in my opinion.  At the end of the movie, everything goes "right" for everyone who is seeking to follow God.  The coach finally gets his spiritual priorities in order and his team starts winning.  I don't have a problem with that, but it would have been truer to life if the infertility issue remained and he had to demonstrate faithfulness to God in the face of unresolved issues.

Taking my son back to college in Pennsylvania last Thursday, I had a minor fender-bender in Statesville, NC … driving his car. I was telling a friend about it Tuesday night when a reference to a song I have always hated came out of my mouth, “Jesus didn’t take the wheel.”  Much as I would like for Him to have done this for me (and for the driver of the other car - a woman on disability following back surgery), He didn’t. OK, so I understand the metaphor in the song.  I know what it means, and I’m all about people giving control of their lives over to the Lord (I'm in the ministry, for crying out loud). But sometimes accidents (and illness) just happen … even to followers of Christ.  It's not "Love the Lord and everything in your life will fall into place."  It's "Love the Lord and He will give you peace to deal with the things in your life that refuse to fall into place."  And sometimes that peace is harder to come by than others.

Donald Miller does a much better job of unpacking this truth in his book:  A Million Miles in a Thousand Years..Highly recommended reading.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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