About six months ago I feel like God asked me to do two things. One was to help the poor more, and the other was something kind of absurd. I feel like He said to workout for an hour every day. I know– weird, right? Does God really talk like that?
Here’s a seemingly unrelated story. This weekend, to my surprise, I learned that hunters are some of the most ecologically minded folks. They are the ones who are most aware of the health of the deer’s, or pheasant’s, (or whatever’s) population. They know which ones to shoot and which ones not to, in order to keep the population thriving. They are the issuers of violence upon a species, but this “abuse” or some might call it “injustice” to the species, brings the species more abundant life.
Anyway, I was at the gym today, and about ten minutes into legs I muttered to myself, “I do NOT want to be doing this. I am so done.”
But I kept going and it turned out to be less bad than I thought it would be.
But for that bitter couple of moments I felt like there was this injustice happening because I was so unhappy. It was someone else’s fault, God’s specifically for asking me to do this. It was a disruption of my peace. Someone was taking my freedom, making me do something I didn’t want to do and therefore I should revolt because I was basically being “oppressed.”
I know that was ridiculous, but in that moment I realized my culture (including me) is very quick to rage against concepts like “oppression,” “injustice,” and “taking away my freedom.”
And by making an ultimate enemy of those concepts, I think I am oversimplifying what is going on. I have made concepts like “freedom,” “peace” and “love” my litmus test for whether something is ultimately good, and if it’s of God.
These are VERY good virtues to hold on to, but I think I am in danger of letting them get in the way of a more important virtue. I think maybe the ultimate virtue is supposed to be this:
LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART SOUL AND MIND.
I think this means to trust him, obey him, and pursue Him like He’s a lover and a father and the one who created me with my best future in mind.
But I know it’s hard to trust because so many of our worldly leaders have failed us and this has conditioned us to respond in shallow ways when a hard work needs to be done within us.
Like when a divorced mom tells her son ‘no more video games,’ and the child says, “You’re so unfair! I’m going to dad’s house then!” Or when a pastor says, “It is good to tithe when finances are tight because God will bless you with more faith,” and we never come back because we assume he’s just trying to extort our holiday bonus. In situations like this the hard practice of growth might be short circuited and the bottom drops out.
So here’s my point. I have clumped a lot of things into categories like “oppression,” “injustice,” and “stealing freedoms,” but waging war on anything that smells like these might be a mistake. What if in the wake of my revolt against those things I have forgotten the one who is the source of good, and that he may be using pain not for oppression or injustice, but for His greater good and mine.
I bet God has hard works he aims to do in me. Like maybe he knows that some day some a cute lady will look at my white, rubber-band calves and say, “I would have dated him but honestly I’m a calves girl. He’s gotta have hot calves.” Or God might trim down whole wicked cities in the Bible for the sake of preserving the rest. And while we are raging at the injustice of our discomfort, He is really saying something to us like:
“Dangit guys, don’t adore my beautiful virtues themselves as god. Those will come out in the end. But there are some battles that must be fought in the process of bringing peace. And there is some pain that must come in order for me to show you a deeper love. I just need you to trust me, and surrender to my instructions to you. Obey my commands because they seriously are to help you. You didn’t create me to help you play more video games. I created you so I can make you more like me.”