I try to be an involved person. It hasn’t always been this way. I went through a period of life I refer to as my “cave dweller days.” They were dark, friendless, sad, and generally miserable.
Then I got connected to my church and started attending a Bible study. Then Top Kid started school and I started to plug-in there. From there it was adding a moms group, volunteering at church, adding a parenting class, serving on a PTA committee and starting two more kids at school which of course meant two more classes to be involved in. In the meantime the Little came along and Daddy-O convinced me we should adopt a second dog – a high-strung Standard Poodle – since our high-strung Jack Russell is starting to get older.
More. And more. And more. Name one thing on my list of “involvements” that is “bad.” I consider all of these activities worthy of my time. Here’s the rub
In all of the more, there was less. Less housework being done consistently. Less time for board games. Less time for my own quiet time. Less room to have heartfelt conversations. All that more, no matter how worthy, was only creating less. Well, less and more.
More busy. Less substance. More go. Less be still. More hectic. Less calm. More “Hustle up people!!” Less “You make me laugh!” Bottom line? More stress. Less peace.
Look back at my list. A Bible study, a parenting class, and a mom’s group. All were Scripturally based. That makes them good, right? Ask me what I learned from any one of those. Quite honestly if I really looked back at the books themselves, I could SHOW you highlights. Maybe with some hard thought I could pull out a heart moment or two from each study. Ask me if I have applied any of those lessons consistently. Note the word “consistently.” I will confess that I have not.
Someone once referred to these thoughts and lessons as a “nugget collection.” Every now and then we pull down our nugget box and we say, “Yeah, that was a good point. I should try to apply that.” (Again, I speak in generalities – I pray this isn’t speaking to you at all!) But what is the point? Why would we study more and more only to apply less and less?
Oh James! The apostle who would not just let people rest on wisdom.
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
It occurred to me the other day that I hadn’t looked in a mirror all day. I had brushed my teeth with one hand while I was loading the washer with the other. I had pulled a hairbrush across my head just enough to get the tangles out while I packed the diaper bag. I don’t do make up so that was a non issue. But I still knew that there is a small scar in the middle of my forehead and a “beauty” bump at the left upper corner of my mouth. Why? Because I have looked at them so many times before I don’t need a mirror to “see” them.
If I become so practiced at considering every thought before it slips out of my face, I don’t need to read 2 Corinthians 10:5 every day to know I need to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” If I store in my heart the promise of God’s provision, I shouldn’t need a tatoo on the back of my hand to remind me “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)”
Any skill or information we wish to retain, has to be studied intently and practiced diligently in order to be lodged in our minds. Sure cramming works before the big exam but it really just clutters up the nugget box; wouldn’t you agree? True life change comes through committing whole heartedly to the concept in question.
The problem comes when we are so busy studying the what to do, that we fail to actually do it. My grandmother used to watch the game show Supermarket Sweep. If I remember the premise correctly the contestants had a set amount of time to load as many shopping carts with as much stuff as they could and the person who racked up the highest “bill” won a bonus round or some great prize. This is the point I think James was trying to get across. We can know all the rules and have all the very best equipment but if we never set foot on the field of faith, what good does it do for our relationship with God, or our witness to the world?
Or what if we are so busy doing perfectly wonderful service projects that we fail to put Christ at the center? I have an image of a cart stacked so high with paper towels, the contestant couldn’t see over it and crashed it into a counter losing her whole load and thus her credit. Great – you did all that stuff but guess what; it isn’t about you. If you have done this for any reason other than Christ, you have missed the boat. As Paul told the Corinthians “you are a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)
As you study and commit to the Scripture, take your time and go carefully. Are you loading your faith cart with food that will power your witness and walk? Or are you just a pile of paper towels that block your view of the One who makes the most out of the least?