In the midst of watching a movie before school this morning (I know my parenting skills are lax at times) my eldest had a question regarding one of the character’s excitement about becoming rich. “Daddy, why do people want to be rich”. I simply replied that a lot of people love money. His reply got me excited, “But daddy, we love people more than we love money, right?”.* What a response. All of a sudden I see in the words of my six-year old what life really is all about. And the weirdest part about all of this; his revelation helped to pull me out of my own apathy. I sometimes find myself wallowing in apathy without even realizing how I got there. But all the same I was in a lurch.
I think without knowing it might be because we are shaped by our desires. I know that seems like an obvious statement, but I don’t think we care enough about it to shape our desires before they shape us. Think about it this way: your stomach grumbles, you seek out food. If you are tired, you seek out rests. If you are irritable, you seek solitude. And none of these things are wrong (although sometimes broken by sin nature) as they are inborn desires, but do we allow them to control us without tempering them to the Word that is alive within us? In the parable of the sower in Mark 4, Jesus helps us to understand untempered desires and how they control His presence in our lives. “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Apathy, anxiety and misplaced desire render us ineffective in our daily walks.
I would go even further. Apathy and anxiety lead to misplaced desire which leads to the Holy Spirit being quenched in our lives. If I become apathetic towards my own life and the lives of those around me, all of a sudden I really could care less how my natural and sometimes broken inborn desires affect the lives of those with whom I come in contact with. If I become too anxious about the future and about how things are going to work out I stockpile securities for my self and all of a sudden the pursuit of wealth takes top priority in my life and those around me take a back seat. That’s why Dakota’s statement from above becomes so pivotal to this discussion, “We love people more than money”. Do we love people more than wealth? Does the thought of encountering someone for Christ stir us out of our apathy and anxiety? Does it curb our natural desires to think about the impact we may have on those around us?
You know, Christ set the example for us on this. When he heard about his cousin John’s death in Matthew 14 he just wanted to get away. His natural desire was to just be alone for a bit. But here is what happened, “…he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” Compassion reshaped Christ’ desire. Compassion can draw us out of our own apathy, anxiety and misplaced desires. May we find a person upon whom Christ is calling us to shower compassion on today.
* I think he understands the goal of ministry better than some pastors…just an opinion.
So you may have noticed a bit of a dry spell…understatement of the week. Okay there has been a drought of creativity in my life. It’s not that I haven’t had creative thoughts. Take for instance my obsession with the acquisition of super powers. Every day (well almost every day) I imagine myself jumping over the Peak and I try it…just in case I have been blessed with the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound over night. Or even my obsession with living the dream of being a Rock Star. My neighbor has a band and when I mow the yard or work outside I make sure I sing along to my iPod with extra gusto and rock-n-roll bravado! So I think I live out my life in a rather creative fashion. But I think sometimes I lose the creative spark when it comes to sharing something divinely inspired with my blog readers.
But I think we find ourselves in this kind of lull in our daily lives anyway. There are times where Christ is doing amazing things and we see his hand in amazing victories and successes in our lives. And then there are even those times where God seems distant, even absent. We are walking through the Valley of the Shadow of death and we feel so far from God. These are equally great times and contrast mightily but sometimes they make the in between times seem…dull.
One of the verses that I hear people quote a lot when they are in time of struggle and they are leaning upon God is Philippians 4:13. You all know it, but do you know the context. Philippians 4:11-13 says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” It’s funny that the reference made famous in verse thirteen referring to “all things” could also simply refer to any and every situation. Situations that are good, bad or indifferent. I think sometimes we struggle with the indifference more than the good or the bad.
So how do we learn to be content in the indifferent? In the drought? In the boring? We carry on…we try to jump tall buildings…we hold informal backyard rock-star auditions. But we know above all else that God is with us in all of these situations. So we sing on, laugh on and even write on. You’d be surprised as to what you write when you discipline yourself to just do it…even in a drought of sorts.
I almost don’t have the will to write this blog post (in fact, don’t be surprised if it just ends suddenly). But that is just the point isn’t it. There are seasons in our lives where we really are apathetic towards anything that doesn’t contribute to our daily routine. It really is sad. It may even be amplified by cold weather and decreased sun light…but the truth is, this becomes my greatest excuse for underachievement. It seems to affect all areas of my life be it work, fatherhood, husbandry, ministry, etc. I find myself wishing I had stepped up a little more at home. Or maybe I think about how that youth event might have run better if I were a little more present. The scary part about it is that I am usually the one to blame. Not that I think apathy is a sin, but maybe it is one of those undesirable things we wish to be rid of. But then a little voice in my ear rings out these eternal words from James, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (4:17)”
Ugh…there it is. The stuff I ought to do. And that is where the problem with apathy comes into play. It is self-indulgence personified. I am the one who doesn’t feel like it and so I am the one who finds an excuse not to do it. And after all, it is all about me.
The scary part about the reverse of apathy becomes this overwhelming need to do the good. What is good? There is so much that needs to be done. There are hungry that need to be fed. Thirsty that need clean water. Sick that need medicine and health care. All of a sudden you can find yourself being crushed into apathy by the very good you sought to do. And that is why the little things become so important. It is the little things in life that defeat apathy. Finding a chore to do so that your spouse doesn’t have to. Shoveling the neighbor’s drive before they can get to it. Sending a letter (hand-written is the best) to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Little things.
And maybe if we are obedient in these things, we find ourselves not feeling quite so apathetic. Ugh. Now I can’t use that as an excuse. Better get busy.