Defining Your Own
by Jane Tawel
March 17, 2018
This past week, I have been thinking about people who do great things and, who if only perhaps for a moment, or sometimes, if rarely, for a lifetime, do something hugely important. Most of these people we won’t know anything about until Heaven’s Roll Call. When I look at those people we call great women and men; and when I read the stories we like to read about heroes; or when I meditate on the life of Jesus – there is a pattern in these lives that seems to me to be this:
Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do
So during this time in the kingdom to which I have been exiled, as I stumble along trying to find my path in the True Kingdom, I have been thinking more lately about historical heroes, as young people across my nation try to find their own path in speaking truth into lies, and light into darkness. They are stumbling and falling. Some will fall away and some will find a different day and cause to fight. But I feel a deep sense of sorrow that they must fight also the naysayers and skeptics and those who confuse them and thereby wear them down with other issues.
This is the same thing, of course, that keeps happening to black people in my country and possibly throughout most of the world. It is easy to sit at home and watch someone fight for the issue they believe in and then, like all Screwtapes do, drip, drip, drip the skeptical slurry of other issues that cloud the truth, and dirty the righteousness of their just cause. Are they perfect in the way they fight? No, are any of us? But was David perfect? Was Winston Churchill? Rosa Parks? Martin Luther King, Jr? Ghandi? Mother Theresa? The requirement for perfection was met by only one human – Jesus – and He did not tell His followers to become perfect before they took up the causes of righteousness, justice and truth. He did however, promise that we would be made like Him if we served with Him, served Him, and served others.
So here are my thoughts on it “all” lately.
Choose an issue to believe in. Eventually stop talking about it and DO something about it –or support the people who can. Don’t chime in on someone else’s issue by combining it with your own. Apples will never be oranges and unlike real fruit, just because something is “an issue”, it doesn’t become any better mixed into one big “fruit salad”. Disagree or agree, but stick to the facts and Big Ideas about that singular, defined, one issue. Combining other issues is fallacious reasoning. Fallacious has the same root word as deceiving which is mostly what people are doing to themselves when they muddy the waters of a clear issue. Like swimming in a stream, muddying the waters, makes it hard to see and hard to move forward. Don’t dilute someone’s issue by morphing in different issues. When you dilute the issue, you dilute the solution — quite literally. Just like in a chemistry solution, diluting the solution with other issues, makes the solution less concentrated and therefore less powerful. There are plenty of “issues” to go around, so pick your own instead of picking apart someone else’s. Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do.
So, just for practice’s sake, let’s take a random problem that doesn’t have the big fightin’words and emotional baggage that surrounds other issues (although in this country I am probably being naive when I say that). Let’s take potholes.
Now you can say, well, but concerning potholes, there is also this other thing over here that is a problem connected to potholes and so is this and potholes really start with this problem so how can we blame potholes, and that is a problem too, so shouldn’t you be fighting against this too or instead, and don’t forget that this here other thing is a bigger problem.
But if potholes are my problem, my “issue”, then there is a pretty simple solution that I am fighting for. Get rid of potholes.
Of course, you have the pothole supporters who say, give me my potholes or give me death. The sort of folk that believe that: Potholes are my right. People who would rather spend money on new suspension for their cars than work with others for the good of their community and spend money on getting rid of potholes. But my point here is that –every time one switches up the conversation, and rather than either agreeing or disagreeing with the position of the other person, they blame someone or something else, then it really dilutes the truth with a sort of Pandora’s box of fallacious argument. If one is adding a different element to the solution for the rampant potholes in this country, then one is in fact changing the issue, diluting the solution, and letting oneself off the hook for taking a solid stand and making a change.
We had a pothole once at the end of our drive, and it was technically in the road which meant it was our city’s problem, but we just went out there ourselves and fixed it, because we could. We had the means, but most of all we had the desire not to live with a pothole in our driveway.
About a couple months ago we had to give up a whole bunch of our God-given American rights, like parking on our side of the street, and keeping our shoes clean as we walked through the dirt and mud on our sidewalks — Because our city decided it was time to do something about our street’s potholes. The road was torn up for weeks and there were a couple of days I barely made it to work on time with the extra work I had to put into getting to my car. Now those potholes were not a big issue for me personally, and I might have rather spent our city’s money on more cops; but the community decided they were a big enough issue for the whole of our community to do something about them. Will there be more problems on our roads? Of course, I live in L.A. County, so…. Will there be new ways for potholes to be created and hence, new solutions to be found? Yes, I imagine if the world lasts that long, there will be. But for now, the problem of potholes has been solved. And you know what? They were right. It is super- duper great living in the safety and peacefulness of a street without potholes.
Of course we can all be a bit too myopic and therefore hypocritical if we don’t realize we can’t only preach out of one side of our mouths; but that is a different dilemma. However, on this topic, the bottom line is — I can’t be too happy that my potholes have been fixed, while my Biblical “neighbor” still has to drive around or lurch over the potholes in her road. So if potholes is my issue for my street, then they also need to be my issue for my neighbor’s street as well.
The one question Jesus asks us is this: What do you believe in that you are willing to act on? He is allowed to ask us that, because He believed enough in something and Someone to act on it.
This is the problem for all people – young and old, rich and poor, saint and sinner — because Jesus is quite clear that if I believe it, I will act on it; and that, if I do it for myself, I must do it for others. If I want a part of Him, I must give up the selfish parts of myself. “There is no one good, but God”, is a helpful reminder that none of us are the “good guys”.
If I want eternal life, I must die to this world’s death-loving dystopia. Jesus gives us a few hints: “If you want to follow in the way I have mapped out that leads to God, then you must give up everything to the poor and follow me”. “Greater love has no woman, than that she lay down her life for her friends.” “For I say to you, love your enemy and do good to those who persecute you.” “For whatever you do for the least of these, then that is what you are doing for me.”
The Words of God are: Sobering. Undiluted. Clear. Uncompromised. Truth.
Jesus constantly and consistently defined His issue: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it…. It is not the will of the Father than any should perish. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest….. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
Listen: “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it”. (Luke 11: 28)
Learn: Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Define: Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. (Matthew 5:17) In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
Choose: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24
Focus: We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2
Do: But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22
The road is narrow and filled with many potholes. If I want to walk the Christ road, I dare not walk around the potholes. I must try to fix them.
“Let those who have ears to hear, listen,” says The Great Hero. The rest of us, need to find our own pothole.
Listen. Learn. Define. Choose. Focus. Do.