Saturday, April 4, 2009

Stuck Under a Shade Tree

Casey, Braelyn and I are are at our favorite little lake house in Conroe. We stayed here while Casey spoke at the D' Now in Spring. The D' Now is over but we decided to sneak in another day here at the lake. We love it here. I'm sitting in the sun room while my Loves are napping. The weather is perfect. I feel like blogging.

There's a couple things that I've been wanting to write about lately. Today...a confession.

We talk about our faith as a walk, a journey. We become a Christ follower and from that point on we set out on a race towards the Almighty King. He is the prize. He is the goal. He is our pursuit. As we run, through both hill and valley, a thing called sanctification should be happening. The closer we get to the Prize the more like the Prize we should become. And because Victory came (yes, it has been won already!) at such a great price, the race itself is no cheap thrill. It's hard. It costs our blood, sweat and tears. It costs everything. With that analogy in mind let me confess that while the Prize is ever the joy of my heart, and while I cannot turn back, sometimes I just feel like finding a shady tree and sitting the next leg out.

I have found that when I get in a good rhythm (still using the running analogy), when He begins to increase my faith, when He begins to entrust more of Himself to me, I sense Him direct me onward into more difficult terrain. It is with joy that I turn the corner, but as I slow down to assess this next leg of the race I see that the road is a little narrower, it's a little lonelier, the peaks are indeed higher, but the cliffs are definitely steeper. And it's here that I tend to stop and take a long, lazy water break.

I can see with my own eyes that it is more beautiful up ahead, there is more joy, more peace, more of HIM! But...I know from running a while what it costs to move ahead. It cost more of me. More of my self. More of my "freedom." I sip on my water and drag my feet around, take a stretch, stall...I get comfortable. "It's nice here," I think to myself. And the longer I avoid moving forward the less urgency there is to hit the trail of discipleship. And what started as a little water break, a moment to catch my breath, becomes sin and disobedience.

I realize that the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. I realize that we all have seasons when we're in better shape than others. But that's not what I am describing here. I am talking about seeing what Jesus is calling me to and feeling hesitant to proceed. Perhaps I've even trudged ahead, no doubt feeling overconfident in my own ability, only to sneak back to the shade tree because I wasn't quite ready for that level of discipleship.

What it comes down to is this...I want both. I want Jesus and I want a comfy, cozy, convenient life. I want the Prize without the pain. I want communion without the commute. I know that I cannot have both. And when I think about Jesus and I dwell on the Gospel I don't want both...His way is the better way. The only way. But as I see this pattern repeated over and over in my life, clearly, there are too many moments that I am not thinking about Jesus or dwelling on the Gospel.

I am reading The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It's wrecking me. In a good way. After reading the first chapter, Cheap Grace, I read it again and told Casey he had to read this book with me. I need to discuss it. I need to process it. And not just by myself. It would be too easy to quietly close the book when I am done, back away slowly and hope that no one noticed so that I could go about my life as before. I don't want that to be the case.

Anyway, chapter 2, The Call to Discipleship, discusses the issue of obedience. I was going through this chapter at Starbucks the other day (one shouldn't read this book without a helpful cup of coffee, and probably not without a pipe either, but I didn't think that very ladylike so I just stuck with coffee, anyways...) I was reading the chapter and some of my own words that I had spoken to a few of our college students were turning themselves back on me. I said, "If you are going to call yourself a Christian, you are under submission to His Word and His Ways whether it's convenient for you or not." It is not an option for me to stop and consider whether I will be obedient in a certain area or not. His Word is not up for discussion. But so often I treat it that way. The sad part is that I have been walking with the Lord long enough to KNOW that His Ways ARE better. They ARE more satisfying and bring infinitely more joy than any earthly thing. But still...I linger by the shade tree in disobedience. WHY do I do that?! WHY do we do that, Christians?

I'll wrap of with a few quotes from the chapter just mentioned.

According to our text, there is no road to faith or discipleship, no other road--only obedience to the call of Jesus.

In a discussion about the man who wanted to follow Jesus, but not before he bid farewell to his family (Luke 9): The disciple places himself at the Master's disposal, but at the same time retains the right to dictate his own terms. But then discipleship is no longer discipleship, but a programme of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves and to be judged in accordance with the standards of a rational ethic.

This is the disobedience of the "believers"; when they are asked to obey, they simply confess their unbelief and leave it at that. You are trifling with the subject. If you believe, take the first step, it leads to Jesus Christ. If you don't believe, take the first step all the same, for you are bidden to take it.

Perhaps I will process this book here on the blog as well as with as my husband. This has been a helpful exercise, indeed. Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear what you're thinking.

Have a great Sunday afternoon.


James Lane said...

Great post! A real encouragement. Thanks.

Robin Brient said...

Sounds like I should read this book! Thanks for sharing, and please process on the blog! Miss you guys!

mandi said...

this is good...
thanks for sharing your heart.

Abba's Girl said...

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a mighty man of God...his words really pierce, don't they?

Our country is so similar to what his country was like during the last several years of his life.

As my friend says, it's time to get real and quit playing church.

Love, Annette

kaytie said...

that book is actually sitting on top of the entertainment center in our house and i was considering starting it shortly before i read this post...perhaps i'll be able to discuss with you as well over coffee again soon...

Casey Cease said...

straight up sexy...