“People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.”
~ Albert Einstein
For the last nine months Rebecca, Noah and I have been working toward getting ready for Judah to join our family. Rebecca has done the hardest work, of course, but Noah and I have been finding and cleaning old baby equipment, furniture and clothes; taking Rebecca to doctor appointments and having long talks about what life is going to be like with a new baby in the house. We set up a room for him and spent hours contemplating names. We prayed for his health and development every single night and wanted nothing more than for him to come to us happy and healthy. If you asked me how I was doing any time over the last three weeks I would have told you, “Good. We are ready for this baby to be born.” In short, we did the work and I would like to see the results now.
We seem to live in a culture where results are all that matter. All I cared about in college were my grades. I’d rather work out really hard for a short period of time so that I can get in shape quicker, than simply enjoy exercising. (It is possible, don’t judge me.) I have even reached the point where waiting the 42 seconds for my Keurig to brew me a cup of coffee seems like it requires patience. I just want to get to the “good part”. I want to push through the means to reach the end because for some reason I have accepted this belief that the end is the only part that’s good.
When I first started to work on myself spiritually I stood at the very beginning of a never ending road. I was dishonest, prideful, impatient, you name it. It seemed like each step I took was an agonizing sacrifice to reach a point that was simply too far out of reach for me to grasp. I remember complaining to my first mentor about this and he provided me with this analogy that has helped me ever since.
“If you travel that same path every day to work. You hit the same pothole; sit at the same unbelievably long red light; and have to make the same impossible left turn it is likely that you will really “suffer” through them each day. However, if you take that same path on your way to a vacation that pothole doesn’t seem as deep, the light is half the length and that left turn isn’t quite to difficult; because you are excited about where you are going. “
This no longer really applies to me, because I love my job but that is besides the point. The idea is that the end seems to dramatically effect the means. This is how it should be. I will go so far as to say the end justifies the means.
Before you start thinking of a thousand and one examples of where that just isn’t true, let me explain in the easiest way I know how, with my current situation. My wife, children and I are missionaries. We pay our bills and put food on the table by the support of other people who believe in what we have given our lives to. That means that I regularly have to not only ask for money (which I hate) but I have to find a way to communicate to people what it is that we do and why it is so important. On a lot of days this kind of feels like I’m tooting my own horn and exploiting my friends on the street.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before others to be seen by them; otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matt 6:1
I genuinely want nothing more than to be a part of what God is doing in this world. I don’t need to be a “great”. There was one, his name was Jesus. In my line of work, however, this requires that people not only believe in God’s heart for what we are doing, but that He will do it through my family. In the world of social media this means pictures and blog posts and newsletters and emails. All of which detail two things, the amazing stuff God is doing through our willingness to follow Him and our families need for more support. I thought I was going to be a preacher. I love to see things, put them in context of this awesome God and share them with other people to hopefully motivate them to act on behalf of others. So it seems strange to me that I would be so uncomfortable doing that in an electronic format.
After much prayer and reflection, I have realized why it makes me so uncomfortable. I am a human being which means that by my very nature (see Real Value) I want to perform. I want to be valuable because of what I have done, my results. So no matter how many times God reveals to me that I am valuable because He values me, and regardless of how much humility (right sized relationship with God) He allots me there will always be a part of me that wants to be important, whether that is because of my small part in His mission or some other thing. In those moments when my importance becomes the “end”, the means are left on their own to either flourish or fail because the only thing justifying them is my importance. (Which means they aren’t justified at all.) And what’s even worse, the weight of maintaining them is on my shoulders. You see, God is the only end, if He’s not, than the means just became the end.
So as I sit here with my Rebecca, Noah and Judah in the next room watching Paw Patrol and drinking hot chocolate I am reminded of the One who allotted me such great wealth. And I cannot help but want to spend everything I have to do the only things He has ever asked of me, “Love Him with all my heart and my neighbor as myself.” Which means that God is the only end in my life. So every picture, blog post and request for support are simply the means that move me one step closer to Him, and I’m okay with that.
What’s your end?