I’m just going to come right out and say it… I’m a bit of a diva. A primadonna, a miss-priss. However you want to phrase it, go ahead…I won’t be offended. It’s true.
Don’t get me wrong…I’m strong – in some ways. I’m not an airhead, and I’m not all about fluff. Some parts of me are sharp and quick – just not the physical ones.
Most of all, I do NOT like discomfort.
I like the heat cranked in the winter, and the A/C on in the summer (though, admittedly, not quite as frigid as my family prefers). I don’t camp; my idea of vacation involves lounging oceanside or poolside, with a nice cold drink in hand. I like good mattresses, soft sheets and my special pillow. I am accustomed to comfort.
It’s for this reason that I dislike exercise; it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like to sweat, or feel the burn of underworked muscles being engaged more than they typically are. I don’t like the discipline that exercise requires. I don’t like being stretched or strained or pushed. Sure, this kind of discomfort isn’t harmful. In fact, quite the opposite. Discomfort in this case, and in many (dare I say MOST) cases is actually good for us in some way. While not pleasant, by any means, even the presence of pain is useful in alerting us to a problem, and driving us to find the cause and a remedy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this correlation between my dislike of discomfort and the current angst that I can so easily find myself in, and certainly see many others in, when I look at the state of affairs in the culture in which we live. Here in America, it seems our political system is spiraling out of control and is barely more than a bad reality show. We see battle lines being drawn not only on a national level, but among local communities, friends and even family members. The social media wars rage on, with everyone (and I do mean everyone, myself included) feeling quite self-righteous in our stances as we quip back and forth and stare aghast at what we perceive to be the “other side’s” ignorance or idiocy.
But increasingly, like an itch I’ve been trying to ignore, the words of scripture…the very ones that I claim to love and want to live by…keep pressing in on my heart and mind, challenging and convicting me of my own attitudes and words.
Surely the beloved Bible phrases I grew up memorizing and singing about can’t POSSIBLY apply now, to these situations, in these crazy times in which we live!!
Things like “love your enemy”, “pray for those who persecute you” and “turn the other cheek” were not meant for moments like these! Moments when surely God, His Word and the very essence of all things “Christian” needs to be “stood up for”….right??
Surely something like “our battle is not against flesh and blood” doesn’t apply when the local school board is removing prayer right out from under us, right?? Surely not. Because Jesus encouraged public prayer, right? (Might want to check out this verse on that topic…)
(Edit for clarity: Please note, the above was said tongue-in-cheek; I very much think Jesus meant we are supposed to love our enemies, even in the most difficult of circumstances. I think the Gospel is meant to be lived…not defended. I am not advocating “standing up for our rights”…but rather questioning if we are actually called to do so.)
Increasingly all these types of words and phrases (and there are a LOT of them) bounce in my head in a very uncomfortable way. They begin to feel akin to discipline and exercise. They make me squirm with discomfort.
They were awesome, beautiful, inspiring words….when I never had to actually act on them in any way that pushed or challenged me; when I could gaze at them or sing about them.
It all reminds me quite a bit of my “Fitness” board on Pinterest. I scroll leisurely along looking at all those workouts, strength training moves and think “Oh yes! That’s awesome! I could do that!!” Until that one ambitious day when I try it for about 30 seconds…and it HURTS. It’s not easy or comfortable. And I say “Oh, heck no!” And I move on. Because while I adore the IDEA of fitness…the reality of it, and the discomfort it brings are something entirely different.
I can only speak for myself, but within my lifetime, I wouldn’t say that my faith has been particularly put to the test. In my teen years, the popular thing was to encourage people to be “bold” about their faith by talking about their beliefs to others, praying around a flag pole one day a year, and wearing Christian t-shirts. Our version of “sold out” for Jesus was listening to only Christian music (I was really bad at that one) and taking purity pledges (another topic altogether). My point is…these things were considered cutting edge Christianity…when in reality, this was probably a bit more like “diva discipleship”. It’s not exactly hard to stand up for your faith when it is largely unchallenged. (Again, this is my own experience. I know others have had a harder time living their faith in more difficult situations than my own.) When you live in a culture that pretty much says “OK, whatever…” to anyone’s beliefs, the worst form of “persecution” is often simply someone expressing disagreement with you. (By the way, this isn’t actually persecution.)
I hear lots of people expressing more and more frustration about losing their “rights”…and yet I have to wonder… Are we maybe actually just beginning to experience some real life opportunities to apply in real-time the claims we have made for so long? At what point are we supposed to give more than lip service the VERY difficult realities that are implied when we talk about being committed followers of Jesus…ones who are TOLD that we are to take up a cross of our own (not referring to the pretty gold one I wear around my neck); the ones who are told that in order to find life we need to be willing to lay down our own; the ones claim to want to be transformed into the likeness of our Lord, but seem to forget he was the One who gave up every last right of His own.
I think, because we have not NEEDED to remember, that we have forgotten what is most amazing about God and his ways is that they are not the ways that would come most natural, and make the most sense to us. They are ways that seem like foolishness. They are ways that say the first will be last and the last will be first; that the weak are the strong; that the poor are the rich. We have forgotten…or maybe simply never known…that the realities of living “Thy Kingdom Come” means living in upside-down ways at every turn. We’ve grown comfortable in our “diva discipleship”, but God is calling us toward spiritual fitness. He’s giving us opportunity to use some muscles we haven’t had to previously…and admittedly, it’s a bit awkward and unsure, and leaves us a little tired and sore.
I will say again, at least speaking for myself… I’m a bit out of Kingdom shape. I’ve gotten a bit flabby from living a life a ease, and I’m still somewhat kicking against the goads of the new exercise opportunities being offered to me (as is always my M.O. when it comes to fitness…just ask my husband). But I can at least see that it’s time, and there are a lot of people looking at self-proclaimed Christians, wondering if we are willing to actually walk the talk when the road gets a little bumpier than the paved paths we’ve enjoyed in the past.
They say when it comes to exercise, it’s always better to have a workout buddy – a partner who will kick you in the butt and not only TELL you to do the right thing, but will get out there and do it with you, when all you want to do is sit on the couch and eat chocolate and drink Moscato. (I’m sure that’s not just me, right??) So…I’m game. Anybody else wanna start working some of that spiritual flab with me??