Saturday, April 11, 2009

impossible without the journey

If a fat person tells you a certain diet works, you might possibly be disinclined to believe him. But if you've known this person for the years that he's been on this diet and seen his battle with depression and compulsive eating disorders... seen the weight that he did indeed lose, only to gain some of it back because he did not practice the self-control necessary to follow the diet perfectly... you might take his word a little differently.

The truth is still true, even if it's not immediately evidenced in the person telling it.

I'll tell you in a second that water is good for you. That you need it. That drinking more water will make you feel better, sleep better, eat better, the whole deal. Good stuff. But I don't feel great, sleep all that well, or eat as sensibly as I should. Does that mean that water's not good for you? Of course not. It just means that I'm not taking full advantage of its benefits; I myself am not drinking enough water.

Think about this, too: you won't suddenly get healthy by drinking 8 cups of water today. In fact, it might keep you UP (and running to the bathroom) rather than helping you sleep. And you won't lose much weight if you follow that guy's diet for only a day or even a week. Getting a massage might feel really good right now, but the benefits are more pronounced and last longer when you're faithfully going once or twice a month. In fact, a good massage might not feel all that great, if it's been a long time since you've relaxed.

Here's my point: It's good to be a Christian. Proverbs 9:10 - when you know God, everything else makes more sense. (my paraphrase... but is that not what it's saying?) Follow His commands because all of them were set up so that life would be better for following them, either by avoiding problems altogether or by having the wisdom to deal with the problems that come with a sinful world. If you spend time reading Scripture and studying the character of God and communing with Him, if you cultivate relationships* with people who remind you of God (in their words and/or character) and draw your attention back to Him, if you have the humility to persevere and keep "fighting the good fight" when you're not seeing any results, you WILL see results. You might not see them today. Prayer is not an instant cure-all. Not everyone gets 180 degree turnaround salvation stories and miraculous healings from illness or sin. Many times the end result would be impossible without the journey. But there will be an end. And if I know anything at all, I know that it will be an end worth fighting for.

Following Christ actively is like drinking water. You can live for a long time without it, filling yourself instead with soda and coffee and beer, but you won't be healthy. You'll feel crappy. And if I find out that you're abstaining from the most necessary thing in life, I'd be guilty of neglect and essential hatred not to tell you about the alternative. You might not even know what you're missing, but you'd see it real quick if you tried it. And maybe it'll get old after a while. Maybe you won't feel like drinking any water one day, and then the next, for the next few weeks, months, years. But hey, water's cheap, and God's forgiveness is offered at no cost to us. You just have to drink. A little at a time. By all means, don't proclaim that you're going to drink a gallon on the first day and give up because you never poured the first glass. You know the truth, and it will still be true tomorrow. Just pick it up again and keep going.

I will tell you these things. I will continue to be convinced of them until I'm blue in the face and you've long since stopped listening. Because I know it's true. I've seen it. Am I full of joy? Am I seeing an abundance of fruit in my life? Am I holier than thou? No. No, I'm not any of those things. But keep in mind, I am weak, half-hearted, and self-absorbed, too. I'm a compulsive eater of the HFCS laden junk food that the world offers to souls hungry for the Bread of Life. I myself am not doing all I need to do in order to take full advantage of the benefits of fighting to walk as a Christian. Still, I've seen it work; I've experienced it firsthand, and I know it to be true. I am better off, even on my bad days, for the God-centered relationships that I have, for the dependence I've cultivated on prayer, for the days I go to church when I really don't want to. So by sharing what I know, I'm reminding myself of what I'm prone to forget, too.

Should I wait until I've got it all down before I tell you what I know to be true? By no means. It might be difficult for you to hear me out, but there are no perfect counselors. The people who know best what they're talking about might well be the ones who are still fighting to make it real in their own lives. They're IN it. What they've learned is fresh. "I've been there. Let me tell you what works for me. Now, I don't always remember to do this myself, but it always works when I do...."

* This is easily done in a good church where you have lots of peers that you can build relationships with. However, let me be quick to argue that I don't think a formal meeting place and time are needed in order not to "forsake meeting together with believers." The problem is only when you forego that input altogether - if you don't have fellow believers driving you to Christ, you're in for a rough journey.

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