Not Worth It

I wrote two weeks ago about a “faithfulness deficit” in our culture. I continue to think about this.

I had a conversation the other day when a new thought struck. I don’t have a well articulated theology of spiritual warfare, but I do think a way the enemy attacks the church in the west is through undermining faithfulness.

We question whether the hard work and the rejection and the nastiness and the disappointment is really actually worth it. Someone stabs us in the back and steals our job. Someone we trusted turns out to be completely untrustworthy. We ignore a gut instinct and it comes back to bite us so we question our ability.

I have experienced all of those things and I’ve talked to other leaders who have experienced those things in just this last week.

I think about the conversations I’ve had in Acts this semester with students. I think about the blogging our staff has been doing through the Psalms. I realized this is a tension everyone feels, and has been feeling for thousands of years. David was hated and people tried to kill him. Paul was run out-of-town. So was Peter.

When injustice wins, when we get screwed, when it all blows up in our face, it rocks our world. It rocks our theology. It rocks our logic.

I keep coming back to this reality: not even Jesus could control the outcomes. He was rejected and despised in a big way, but also in a lot of other small, more subtle ways. Like this and this and this.

All you can do is throw yourself into the work and then let go of the outcomes. We can’t control what people will say about us, or what people will think of our work. But we can do the work and we can give it everything we have.

Again, we can’t control the outcomes, but we can choose to stay faithful. And that is a difficult but courageous choice.

Confidence Man

In honor of the World Series, which begins tonight, some thoughts from the enigmatic Barry Zito:

Zito said something very interesting about confidence after the Giants won the pennant that helps explain what is going on here. Zito talked about how when you are young you get by with “unconscious confidence” — you have succeeded so often with the sharp skills of youth that you don’t even think about not succeeding. “When you’re going good, you don’t even know why,” he said. But when failure comes, it arrives with its companion: doubt.

“You go through a phase, and if you can get through it,” Zito said, “you come out it in a different place, where now the confidence is something that’s conscious, that’s earned. It’s the confidence to know why you’re good.”

Some Thoughts on Being Inconvenienced

There are things about living in the city that just complicate life. Parking is difficult. Even when you find it, it can end up costing you. Transportation is difficult. Today I got stuck on a train and was 10 minutes late to a meeting. Navigating crowds and busyness and bustle is difficult.

There are also things about living in the city that are wonderful and amazing, but I find again and again that there are so many variable I cannot control.

Last week our neighbors painted their apartment. They moved stuff around and unplugged cords and ended up disconnecting our cable. No TV and no internet. It still isn’t fixed five days later.

The TV is not normally that big of a deal, but it just so happens that a baseball team I love is making an incredible, unprecedented run through the post-season. I’d love to watch that.

The internet is actually kind of a big deal. I am doing more admin work from home these days. Amy uses it all the time for recipes and questions about babies and communication with me and many others, not to mention staying in the loop with her company while she is on maternity leave.

As much as I hate to say it, we need the internet to work in our home.

When things don’t work, when things go wrong, when unexpected annoyances derail my plans, I find out all kinds of things about myself and my character that I would rather not know.

And that’s maybe the most interesting thing of being inconvenienced. It’s not that my impatience (or frustration or anger or whatever) is exposed, it is that I am so mad at it being exposed.

I’d much rather live with the illusion that I am patient, and I’m ticked that the illusion was brought o my attention. Because now I have to do something about it.

Illusions are easier than hard work.

So, those are some thoughts…

A First, Faint Gleam of Heaven

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.

– CS Lewis

A Faithfulness Deficit

We are immersing ourselves in the story of the early church on campuses around Boston this year and the conversations about Acts have been fantastic as our students explore community, the Holy Spirit, and facing opposition.

One thing we see in the early stages of Acts is rapid growth. In fact, we are given some hard numbers: the movement grows from 120, to 3000, to 5000. After hitting 5000 we are given more general statements like “others continued to join them,” or “their numbers were added to.”

This growth has been pointed out in several conversations I’ve been a part of and each time students have been interested in retention. How many of those 3000 stuck around for the next day and the next day and the next day? 

Fascinating. I think it’s a great question, and I think it belies the transient nature of our larger culture. Sure, lots of people will check something out once, but how many will actually stick around.

We have a faithfulness deficit.

I am sure there is a lot more to be said about this. But this question has surprised me and intrigued me. There’s some cynicism behind it (no way that many people actually stick around), but there’s also some wonder involved (that many people stick around? hmmmm….something going on there).

Faithfulness is a huge challenge and sacrifice. It is a better story. It is an all too rare story in our culture today.