If it were up to me, you’d be allowed to board an airplane based on how fast you took your shoes off in the security line. Clock a good time? You’re on the plane first! Slowly unlace waist high boots? You’ll board last.
It would be like the Olympics of airport security. And it would be awesome.
These are the kind of things I think about when I fly. If you follow me on twitter, and you really should, you know all of this. You know that last Saturday I tweeted about the four year old next to me who shook his sippy cup like he had just won the NBA Championship. Milk flew on my book and my face. It was a scene man, a real scene.
Eventually the flight attendant stepped in when the kid made a play for the fire extinguisher and the bullhorn. Party time!
But that kid wasn’t even the most interesting thing that happened on that flight. There was an officer in the army sitting on the other side of me. He was flying back to Afghanistan and said something that really surprised me. I asked him what was one of the biggest misconceptions about Afghanistan and here’s what he told me:
“We statistically lose more 18-25 year old soldiers when they go home for R&R than we do in combat in the field.”
That surprised me. If you asked me which was more dangerous, being in the middle of an armed conflict in Afghanistan or going home for a few weeks of rest and relaxation, I’d pick the first option. But the more the army officer explained it, the more it made sense.
“What sometimes happens is that you have folks that go back home after being out of the country for months at a time. They’re flush with cash, haven’t been in a lot of social situations lately and think they’re out of danger.”
They buy motorcycles and crash them. They make crazy financial situations that wreck them. They get in DUIs. In a million different ways they make the kind of mistakes that can ruin you. All at home. All on vacation.
The more I listened to him, the more the story started to sound familiar. In fact, I think we do a similar thing with our faith sometimes.
We all know the “neon sins” we’re not supposed to do. We all know the big things we should avoid like the plague. Adultery, murder, money laundering, robbing banks, chances are if I suggested we shouldn’t do those things you’d agree. There’s nothing groundbreaking about that. But sometimes we play the “at least game.”
My friend reminded me of this a few years ago. I told him I felt like I was struggling with some lust issues. I told him I was feeling pretty wrecked by some decisions I was making. In the middle of our conversation he said,
“Yeah, but at least you’re not sleeping with hookers.”
That’s true, I wasn’t sleeping with hookers. I was avoiding some neon sins in my life. I wasn’t involved in prostitution. I was staying away from the combat zone types of sins, the at war in Afghanistan type of dangers. I was escaping the trenches in my life on the battlefield of my heart.
But I was dying on vacation.
I might not have been sleeping with hookers, but I was slowly wearing myself away with lust and pornography. My death might not have been dramatic or extreme, like a rocket-propelled grenade from an enemy, but it was happening nonetheless. My faith had grown weak and comfortable. I wasn’t growing, I wasn’t being renewed, I was a adrift. And I don’t want that.
I don’t want “at least” faith.
I don’t want to find somebody who is worse off than me in order to feel better about me.
I don’t want to prepare and train and fight hard against the big enemies of my life, only to die in the middle of an ordinary weekday, during an ordinary vacation.
The battlefield is a scary place. We’re constantly reminded of that as pastors and friends alike give in to big terrifying foes. But in our desire to prepare for the battlefield bruises, in our focus on the big, loud, neon sins in our lives, let’s not lose sight of the little things.
Let’s let go of “at least” faith.
Let’s not die on vacation.