Serving those who are responding to God’s call to love.

Worthy

When I was in high school I was great in music and lousy in sports. I was well over 6 feet tall and skinny. And people were always asking me if I played basketball. Height gives a player a distinct advantage in the game of basketball as in many other sports. But shorter, more athletic players consistently outplayed me. I remember the enthusiasm in player’s faces as I walked up to the court, each of them imagining the advantage that they would easily achieve with my height. And how that enthusiasm quickly vanished as I missed passing opportunities, easy shots, and struggled with dribbling. I tried out several times, made it through the physical training, practiced hard at the fundamental skills, but nothing really clicked. Eventually I resigned to develop the talents for which I was better equipped, namely academics and music. Had basketball been a critical life skill like being honest, or dealing well with authority, I would have been in real trouble.

I do think that sports, or playing a musical instrument helps introduce us to many basic life skills. And I wonder if these more fundamental and essential life skills are also more instinctive? Or do some of us struggle with learning them, like I struggled in sports? Truthfully, on some level I think we all struggle with perfecting life skills. They are not easy. I remember the bible verse “Therefore you must be perfect like your heavenly father is perfect.” If that’s not an intimidating performance standard I don’t know what is! But for some of us I think even some very basic life skills (that others seem to pick up through normal stages of learning) come very slowly – or dare I say not at all.

As an adult I decided to take up golf. I was enchanted by the environment in which golf is played and knew I could figure it out. But it took me years to develop a basic, reliable swing technique. I still don’t excel in the sport but I can now play and do okay. I needed a different approach, I guess, than the ones that many other golfers may have taken. I watched videos, read books, got fitted for clubs, and took lessons. But the bulk of the time was spent unwinding some almost invisible tendencies that were ingrained in me – that even the pros could not identify. I remember one pro looking at me a little puzzled after a few lessons and saying “just practice, I don’t know what else I can do for you.”

There is a moment of truth that happens when a golf pro recognizes that you just don’t have it and decides, we have to move on. Or a group of players decide, we came to play a competitive game and you are in the way. That feeling you get when you first see the change in people’s eyes and know that you’re not interesting to them any more is crippling. It feels like – you’re not WORTHY.

The consequence of not being good at basketball was that I didn’t play basketball. The consequence of never learning things like honesty and integrity – for instance – could be jail time, homelessness, or ending life with a bullet in my head. This is where worthiness comes into play from both sides. On one side, as parents, pastors, friends, and siblings we must decide if someone is worthy of our time, attention, and money. On the other side, as a person who is deemed “unworthy” on a very crucial level, I must deal with the scary realization that something may be seriously amiss inside of me. And that thing could lead to my untimely demise.

This is a big problem. But not an uncommon one. Looking at the human condition from a Christian perspective, we understand that this is why Christ had to come.

The trouble is that there seems to be a lot of people that look like they are doing okay. They embody our ideals. Or else they are fine with acting like they do in order to play well with others and reap some of the benefits that are poured out when you look like you are moving in the right direction. The proven psychological truths of boundaries and measurable performance work for many people in the process of learning basic life skills. But for some of these lessons, only endless second chances, and the empowering grace from the living God will work. And my suspicion is that this applies to all of us at some level, or at one or more times in our lives.

The life skill lesson that I am struggling to learn right now is how to discern when I am to use money as a motivator/reward, and when I am to use it as an outreach tool. I’m not exactly sure I can explain why, but empirically (from observation of results that is) I must accept that setting criteria for financial assistance is sometimes a grace-buster.

Some will excel at meeting criteria, and for them financial assistance is a motivator and reward. But if you had put money into golf lessons for me. For at least eight years or more it would have been nothing but an outreach.

As an organization that funds young people during a transitional period of life we must learn to be effective at both kinds of giving. Even though we don’t manage a fund for scholarships directly, our influence and ability to advocate and raise awareness for young adults in a variety of phases of learning is crucial to our mission. We view each person’s individual resources as being attached to the body of Christ around them that consists of friends, family members, and churches. When the Holy Spirit moves in these circles, many wonderful things happen that form an important part of the reason for why we – as Christians and as an organization – exist. We must find balance in valuing the various paths which people take to experience the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Jude wrote a brief but powerful letter to all of us who are struggling with the morality of persevering in sometimes impossible conditions. He writes, “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” I am not a theologian but when I read “mercy mixed with fear” I had a clear mental picture that our ideas of mercy can put us dangerously close to various corruptions which are as dangerous as those we are attempting to save someone from. Noticeably, There is no mention of time constraints or criteria in this passage.

I don’t understand how grace works. I really don’t. Like gravity I can explain what it does but I have no clue how it works. It is a mystery and a scandal by any human measure. But I am convinced that if it doesn’t work when required through endless second chances, that I and a good many others I know are in very serious trouble.

1 Comment
  1. Still in awe over this….

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Loves Calling International, Inc.
11953 Ellison Wilson Road
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
Phone: (970) 270-0314
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