pecaspers: a Blog in transition

February 28, 2016

Making the Race Harder

We went to Burger King for dinner tonight because our kids needed some time running around on a playground and… No, no “and,” the playground was the deciding factor.

After most of the food was consumed and the simple enjoyment of climb, slide, run, repeat wore off, my very competitive son challenged my wife to a race. Up the playset, down the twisty slides, the first one back wins. So that was fun for a few rounds with Mommy and/or Sister. Then Daddy got in on the action. Then we took a break, ate a couple more fries, split a cookie four ways, etc. 

Racing resumed with an added trip up the playset and down the double slide. Mommy sat out a couple rounds watching the baby while I let my boy win and my girl came in a distant third. When Mommy entered into the final race (leaving me to sit out), the course changed again. This time it was Mommy who made the race harder. Too hard for herself, in fact. The race became this: up the playset, down the twisty slides, back up the playset, down the double slide, through the tunnel under the playset, and back to start. 

That tunnel is easy for a 5 year-old to run through. Not so for his 20-something mommy; she had to crawl. It was hard to watch. Do I laugh, do I encourage, do I feel sorry for my sweet wife struggling to finish a meaningless race against our son?

Here’s where I landed.

I laughed at and with my wife, I cheered for her as she crawled to an embarrassing defeat of her own design, and I felt sorry for all of us humans for all the times we’ve made the race harder for ourselves. 

In the Bible, the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes at one point, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1,‬ ‭ESV‬‬).

Adding needless complexity can make things better when you’re talking playground fun. That’s not the case with life in general nor with the Christian life in particular. God has good things for you to experience for your enjoyment, hardships he intends you to endure for the sake of developing your character, and comfort to give you so that you can comfort others (note: only hurting people need comforting). So the life your Father in Heaven wants for you will be a hard enough race to run, hard in an ultimately good way mind you.

The trouble is that we make the hard-in-a-good-way race harder in a bad way when we deviate from the course set before us. We add trips into dark valleys only to have to climb steep cliffs to get back out. We stop to attend to some distraction and let the race get away from us such that we must run all the harder to catch up. We pick up extra weights which we’re told add to the fun but merely add to the difficulty of running the race. 

My father-in-law runs marathons. I can’t imagine him getting halfway through the Boston Marathon in April and deciding to run an extra mile off the course to pick up a Big Mac, a pack of cigarettes, and pair of 20-pound dumbbells, you know, just to make the race more interesting. That’s insane. No one does that. I also can’t imagine him cutting down a sidestreet to shorten the race. That’s cheating, and it disqualifies one from finishing and receiving any award.

So why do we do that kind of thing so often? Usually, it’s because we aren’t thinking about the consequences of our actions, like my wife who didn’t think about how she would get through a tunnel designed for children. You get to make many real choices in life, but you never get to choose the consequences of your choices. 

Think about it.

Are you making the race harder for yourself? How is that working for you? What do you need to do to get back on course? (Hint: Give Hebrews 11 & 12 a read for starters.)

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October 12, 2013

Competing Desires

Earlier today my three year old son Peter threw an epic fit that made me a little later to a meeting to which I was headed. Even after I left, in part because I left, the tantrum train kept rolling right along for a while longer.

Why was Peter having a grade-A melt down? It was because he doesn’t have a steam roller, obviously.

That’s not quite right. It was because he has a monster truck instead of a steam roller.

I can see this isn’t making sense to you. Some background is in order.

Peter is a big Bob the Builder fan. Bob has a team of anthropomorphic construction equipment; one of whom is a steam roller named Rolly. Peter has a wide assortment of construction equipment toys. It doesn’t matter to him that only a couple of them are actually Bob the Builder toys, any kind of machine featured on the show is called by that character’s name. Peter doesn’t have a Rolly, nor does he have a suitable stand-in.

For his recent birthday, Peter got some “monies.” Yesterday, Peter and Mommy pulled a dollar and change (got to learn about taxes early) out of Peter’s froggy bank with the expressed purpose of buying a steam roller from Dollar Tree. However, Peter decided in Dollar Tree that he wanted a monster truck instead.

Peter wanted a Rolly, but he bought a monster truck instead by his own free choice.

Back to today’s fit. “I want a Rolly!”
“Peter, you don’t have a Rolly. You bought the monster truck, remember?”
“I don’t want that monster truck! I want a Rolly!”
And so on.

There’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere.

He had a desire for a good thing. He had the resources to achieve his desire. Yet because he wasn’t focused, he ended up with something other than his primary desire, and he regretted that decision when the weight of that first desire settled back in.

There’s all sorts of things this little tale might illustrate.

In this moment, the best tie in that comes to mind is to Colossians 3. Paul tells us to set our minds on Christ and his Kingdom rather than on this world, our flesh, and our struggles with each.

He leads off with a conditional statement: “If … you have been raised with Christ.” Have you? If you have, then we are to put to death what is dead and live the life which Christ raised us into. Go read Colossians 3 (especially 1-17), it’s right there in the Scriptures. You were dead, you died to death in Christ, you are now alive to live in Christ…if you have, in fact, been raised with Him.

Peter should have looked at that monster truck and declared it dead, not worth his time, attention, or resources. He should have focused on what would bring him more “joy” (to misuse the term for effect) later. He should have stood firm on his desire to bring his collection of construction equipment to completion. He chose what looked shiny and fun in the moment instead, and he suffered great emotional turmoil for it later, and he still had no Rolly in spite of all his screaming and crying.

Where are you caving in to earthly desires rather than staying focused on Christ and those things that will lead you to greater spiritual maturity, to fuller obedience to His will, and to greater experience of His blessings–whatever form they may take?

To be honest, a number of things come to my mind in my life. Will you be honest, too?

[Truth in all things: The end of this post was written weeks after the beginning of it. Peter does have a steam roller now. He also chose not to get a certain toy from another show the other day so that he could look for one that was the same character but had more moving parts. Growth is possible.]

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