I’m distracted. Work has been busy lately. I’ve been too caught up to focus on faith. I don’t have time to think about ways to act more like Jesus. Or try — in earnest — to better understand God’s truth or how God is leading my life.
It’s not that I’m trying to ignore God. Things are just really busy at work right now. But look, I’ll get a reprieve at some point. And obviously, I have to do my best at work. So for now, this is just the way things are.
Do you ever catch yourself justifying harmful behavior with excuses like that? If I’m being honest, I know full well that I am a workaholic. I have been for years. I work hard to overcome it, and there are times when I think I have. Often, I can tell I’m doing so much better. But at my core, I have always struggled with making work an idol: giving it the highest priority in my life, getting my value and sense of worth from it, and ignoring friends, family, and real relationships for the sake of my job.
This whole week, I knew my idolatry was winning. I knew I needed to make a change.
For me, the key to getting over myself and being able to focus on God often comes when I find a way to be a reflection of Jesus’ love to someone. During times I’ve been wallowing, moping, and feeling sorry for myself, I’ve discovered the best cure is to stop wallowing and start trying to find ways to be Jesus to someone.
So when a friend ended up stranded in Portland on Friday and needed to be in Seattle on Saturday morning or miss an important trip — it felt like God was handing me a chance to stop aggravating my problem, and start doing something about it. So I did. I roadtripped 360 miles so she could get to Seattle in time. And I also got three hours to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen for way too long.
What feels weird, though, is that in church on Sunday morning, my pastor mentioned this Midnight Portland Roadtrip 2k16 as an example of how Christians can show God’s love to each other. And that’s nice, I guess.
I mean, yeah. Seizing the opportunities God gives us to reflect glimpses of Christ’s powerful love for humanity — so others can have a tangible experience of that love — is great. (I’ve felt that love. It’s insane. Like, flip-your-world-around insane.) My pastor shows this logic-defying, Jesus-style love to folks all the time. I’ve heard people say they don’t know if God exists, but when they see how my pastor lives her life, and the reflection of Jesus that she is, they think maybe, just maybe, they can believe God could be real. Because they see evidence of God through her.
That’s not me. For as much as I love to write about Christianity and faith, in the grand scheme of things, I’m sort of too lazy and self-concerned to live like she does. I skip church events because I’m behind at work. I stay late in the office and push other things aside. But I respect my pastor’s selflessness like crazy, and I’m slowly dipping my toe in that approach to life. I’m wading in cautiously. Maybe — with a lot of patience on God’s part — I might be able to one day have someone say that about me.
Because being a small earthly representation of the heavenly reality of God’s love — a Love too amazing for us to fully grasp — is a calling God gives us, and something I deeply aspire to.
Yeah, I drove to Portland at 7pm on a Friday, got there at 10:30, left at 11:30, and got home at 2:30 am. It’s nice to be recognized for that. But it’s also not the whole story. If anything, this Midnight Portland Roadtrip 2k16 was just as much for me as it was for my friend.
In the day that followed — during my usual Saturday time of praying and reading Scripture — God provided an extra bit of insight. A reminder of God’s power in my life. And extra portion of encouragement in the midst of my continuing struggles and uncertainties in faith.
It wasn’t a lightbulb moment. I still have questions and doubts. But it was added insight and hope. And if taking an opportunity to serve God — one God sort of dropped in my lap — also happens to be a tool for sharpening my insight and understanding, I’ll take it. I’ll take it over and over again.
Making a point to live like Jesus can benefit us just as much as it can other people. Like, actually. So my question is: What will be my Midnight Portland Roadtrip next week? And will I be strong enough to turn away from my idols, comfort, and security — and actually take God up on the challenge?