Monday, July 8, 2013

Caught on a Catchphrase

     Whiteboards are remarkable. I saw the message and ignored it. When my friend filled in the blank at the end I objected. Then I relented. What I thought was an empty catchphrase became full of truth.
     Some of the cliché Christian catchphrases make me uncomfortable. I hear people announce clever witticisms like W.W.J.D. as if this is supposed to be a perfect signpost directing the right way to go. I wonder how many people realize that they can’t know W.J.W.D. without a good knowledge of The Bible. When I was working at a church one evening I had to ask some people to leave, telling them that they couldn’t operate their loud remote-control cars in the parking lot while a worship service was going on.
One guy leaned over and grinned. “You know,” he said. “I’ll bet Jesus would tell us we could stay.”
     I sighed and asked him when the last time he talked to Jesus was. It was probably hypocritical because I don’t think my prayer life was good back then either. What I should have told him was this: Jesus would probably suggest sell his remote control cars and give the money to charity. I didn’t know W.J.W.D. Maybe if I had talked to Jesus more often or read my Bible I would have thought of that.
     Yes, I am just as guilty of misinterpreting these sayings. At our last Friday night meeting there was a message left on the whiteboard from earlier in the week. It essentially asked what one must do when agreeing to serve God. The sentence ended with a blank line to fill in a personal answer. My friend wrote: Let Go, Let God.
     I objected. I called it out as just another feel-good catchphrase. To me, it meant that someone can just make no effort to do anything. It sounded like someone could just relax, like they were evacuating and letting go. Let God worry about everything, I’m just going to sit here and do nothing but let go.
     I’m not sure what I felt was wrong about this except that it sounded like a cop-out to me. Then I read over the lesson I agreed to teach that night. And right there in the night’s lesson were those very words Let Go, Let God.
     Great, was my first thought. I agreed to read the lesson out of the Leader’s Guide and the leaders guide was wrong. Well, maybe I could still salvage it.
     But then I re-read what the lesson was saying. It was lesson 14, READY. And it was all about submitting to the changes God would make in my life. Releasing control over to God means allowing God into my life. Suddenly there was context. Let go, meant let go of the control I am so very fond of. Let God didn’t mean let God go take care of things that bug me. Let God means to let God into my life. Surrendering things I hold onto like pride, mistrust, resentment, and so many other things that keep me from being who I am meant to be.
     The context made the difference. The empty phrase that looked like it belonged on a license plate frame became the fuel in the tank. I taught the lesson and got a good laugh from everyone when I admitted that I had learned from the lesson before I even taught it. Like the whiteboard, the writing on my mind had been wiped clean and replaced with truth.
     It’s amazing what some solid context will do to what one might think is just an empty phrase regarding a Christ-centered walk. It’s not enough to pull out what sounds catchy or even what sounds wrong in order to try to prove a point. And my lesson that night, my personal lesson in addition to the one I taught from the book, reminded me that partial surrender, like partial truth, is not enough.
     So I’ll share the question I’m pondering. What am I still holding onto that I need to let go of and let God into?

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