On Giants' Shoulders

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Talk is Cheap

Have you ever had friends or family members who told you that they loved you, and wanted to spend time with you, but whenever the opportunity became available were for whatever reason unwilling to do so. Maybe they decided that someone else's company was more attractive that night, or they just wanted to be alone. Did they ask favors of you, but when you called to ask a favor did they always have an excuse for why they couldn't do it.? Then when the next holiday came around, you received a card with its traditional lovely sentiment. Did you really still whole heartedly believe it? Even if they told other people what a nice person you were and how fond they were of you and the word got back to you, did you really feel they truly meant it?

Talk is cheap. A relationship takes not just words, it takes actions, it takes spending time with someone, it means caring about what they care about, it means responding when they make a request of you. A relationship which becomes one-sided with one person doing nearly all the giving and the other person doing nearly all the taking is a relationship with problems.

Yet how often does our relationship with God fall into the same pattern? How often do we kneel on Sunday morning and tell God how much we love Him, yet fail to make time for Him in our daily lives. How often do we talk to other people about God, but not talk to Him. How often do we fail to do the things He has asked us to do? How much of the time are we doing the taking and refusing to do the giving? Are we giving God the occasional Hallmark greeting card, but not growing in our relationship because we'd rather spend time doing other things? How much of the time do we shrug off the things that He has requested of His children? Sometimes we think that unless we are asked to do the big things like become a priest, or become a missionary to darkest Africa that God isn't really asking much of us. So often the things that he does ask of us in Scripture we simply ignore. Some of those things are simply stated flat out, some in the Proverbs, some in the Ten Commandments, some in the Gospels, some in the Epistles, but some of them, simple though they may be, seem to be beyond our willingness to obey. We put exception clauses around our willingness to be obedient. "I'll go to Africa, Lord, but don't expect me to worship with those people over there." "I'll become a priest if you want, but don't ask me to forgive that person." "I'll give up meat for Lent, but don't expect me to respect that person's authority." "I'll give up chocolates, but I really can't submit to Him." "I'll put money in the offering plate, but don't expect me to love her the way you love the Church." In the process we do what the Israelites did, we offer God less than what he really wants of us, even while we are thinking that we are offering more.

Lent is a good time to think about what God is really asking us to give. Quite often it's far different than what we are willing to give. It's so much easier to give up desserts or to simply talk about our love for God. The problem is that what He's really asking of us requires something more than giving up sweet things. It may mean that we simply really love some of the unlovely people God has placed in our lives and make more time to spend with God daily. The challenge is that giving up desserts takes so little effort and giving up our time for someone else or for God means giving up a piece of ourselves. In the long run it's easier to talk about our love for God, and not eat chocolate for Lent. Easy sacrifice and cheap talk and we can convince ourselves of the quality of our love. We can pull out the Hallmark greeting card of Lent for God, or we can spend our Lent improving the quality of our relationship with Him. I'll admit I've had greeting cards that made me sad when I received them because what the words said didn't reflect the way the person had acted. I'm sure that in picking out the cards the person had the same warm fuzzy feelings that we often have towards God on a Sunday morning. I don't think they even reflected on the quality of their actions between card giving occasions. I don't want my Lent to become that sort of Hallmark greeting card to God and I hope you don't either.


At 6:40 AM, Blogger Karen E. said...

How beautiful, Liz, and how challenging. Thank you.


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