When my men’s group leader described our service project last Saturday, I thought it would be like a Coor’s Light commercial. Only minus the beer. I envisioned us all in flannel shirts and Wrangler jeans, raking leaves at an elderly woman’s house, forming a bond of brotherhood in a backyard strewn with fall foliage that was too exhausted to cling against a winter’s sky. There probably would have been a golden retriever jumping around in the leaves and someone would have brought some Bob Seger to play through a small, humble stereo. We would have laughed, shared, raked and walked away better men and friends for the experience.
I was wrong. A few days before the event, I found out that only three of us had signed up for the mini rake-a-thon. Due to scheduling conflicts, most of the group had signed up for a different service project. My first thought was, “It doesn’t matter that barely anyone is coming. I’m doing this to give of my time and learn how to have the heart of a servant. Ahhhhhmen.”
OK, that’s not entirely true. My first thought was, “I was promised we’d be able to grow together as a group by doing this activity and now no one is coming. I don’t want to go unless other people are. And we’ll be driving to this old lady’s house at the same time the SEC Football Championship is being held downtown. The traffic is going to be a nightmare. And it’s not like I have four hours to do something that doesn’t pay off a huge benefit to me a few weeks before Christmas. I don’t have time for this. This is so inconvenient.”
That’s pretty gross thought, right? I mean talk about selfish, but as I realized while quietly raking the monstrously large yard, I only give when it’s convenient to my own life. I didn’t sign up for the service project because I wanted to help an elderly woman keep her yard clean. I signed up because I thought it would be a convenient way to learn more about the guy’s in my men’s group. When the potential for that benefit disappeared, I wanted to as well.
I’d like to say that was an anomaly, that my desire to give out of my convenience instead of out of love was a rare situation, but the truth is I live most of my life that way. All too often, I crave convenience instead of Christ. I want an easy life. I want all the pieces to fall together. I make my decisions based on what will cause me the least possible inconvenience or stress.
But when I look at the life of Christ, who’s supposed to be my model if I call myself a Christian, I don’t find much convenience. If anything, he had perhaps the most inconvenient life possible.
Being born in a stable is not convenient.
Having your friends get beheaded and murdered is not convenient.
Living in the desert without food or water for 40 days is not convenient.
Dying on the cross, for a crime you did not commit, is not convenient.
If you look at His life, none of His decisions seem to be designed to increase His own convenience or comfort. None of His actions seem geared to give him an easy life. So why are mine? Why do I keep wrestling with things like comfort, a topic I’ve written about before?
I don’t know exactly. I haven’t figured that out yet, but I can’t seem to escape the question, “Can I chase a life with convenience and a life with Christ at the same time?”
I hope God gives us all a renewed desire to live inconveniently. To give when it doesn’t make sense, to love when it isn’t returned, to sacrifice even when the impact of our actions is invisible.
Although between you and me, bring a golden retriever and some Bob Seger if you ever have to rake leaves. Everything in life goes better with a golden retriever and a little Bob Seger.