Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I'm Packin' Heat

It seems to me we humans easily mistake emotional fervor for an indefatigable strength.  I remember as a young man after watching an action movie such as James Bond or Star Wars, I would leave the theater feeling invincible.  Bring it on! I'd think. Come on, make my day! (Can you guess what decade I attended college?)

Then came the season of my life when my friends and I would go shooting.  I packed a Ruger Super Blackhawk in a hip holster right out of Fist Full of Dollars, donned a Clint Eastwood Stetson, and with squinting eyes, rolled a thin cigar back and forth across my front teeth.  I swore I heard Ennio Morricone's music swelling in the background: Ah-e-Ah-e-Ah!  The problem with this was my mind's eye image of myself at that moment fell hopelessly outside reality; at nineteen years of age, I looked as if I were ten or eleven (good grief, I didn't even start shaving regularly until I reached twenty four).  I will say, though, I played the role perfectly if the movie had been entitled The Good, The Bad, The Baby.

And remember when visualization was the big rage in the winter Olympics? Let's face it, no amount of head bobbing up and down, back and forth, and round and round, in an attempt to psych the luger into a gold medal run, will ever substitute for ten thousand hours of actual practice.

In the final analysis, all of our emotionalism, mental resolve, and enthusiasm will fail us every time.  It's like flying in a plane, and seeing a thick dense bank of clouds, I convince myself I could walk on them; so, I step out of the plane...well, you know what will happen.

The apostle Peter suffered from these same kinds of delusions.  Just before Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples they would bolt the minute Jesus was apprehended.  Here's what Peter had to say about that:

Even if they all fall away, I will not!....Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you.

And all of them said the same thing.

But Jesus told Peter he would deny having ever known, Jesus.  And of course, Peter did exactly that.  Peter mistook his emotional fervor for a true indefatigable strength.

Standing alone, the picture I have painted must seem pretty bleak, even depressing.  But just because we so easily trust in will-of-the-wisps doesn't mean there is no real strength to be had.  Jesus urged His disciples to pray so they wouldn't fall into temptation.  In other words, God was ready to give them the strength to overcome their fears and stand with Jesus.  But Peter and his brethren decided to sleep instead of praying.  Now, we can sympathize with them somewhat; it was late, and they had recently finished dinner, so they were probably tired; you and I would have been tired, too.  Yet, there are times when we must override our fatigue, and this was one of those times for the disciples.  Like us, though, I suspect they argued for sleep on the basis of their resolve to loyally stand and defend their master, and the inherent benefits of sleep.

In one way or another, as did Jesus' disciples that horrid night, we all fall victim to our own hubris.

Having a vision or motivation is certainly valuable; the problem is thinking the vision is sufficiently powerful in its own right.  The real tragedy for Peter and the gang was not their determination, but their failure to pray for God to empower them to make good their determination.

As Christ followers--that is to say, as dwellers in the kingdom of God--we must trust God by surrendering ourselves unconditionally to Him.  Such trust is what it means to live by faith.  Our strength can only be found in God.  Jesus said, "Outside of Me, you can do nothing."  Without trusting God completely, we will fail to meet the vision He has given for us--even should we swoon at the sight of its beauty.  Worse, if we don't trust God as if our life depended on it--and it does--we will substitute our own vision for His vision.  And as with all lies, our self-delusions will propagate geometrically in an effort to cover themselves, leading us farther and farther away from the truth; we learn the hard way that the clouds in our minds we felt certain would carry us, leave us to free-fall into an abyss, every time.

When Jesus tells us to follow Him, He doesn't mean in vision only, but with utter dependence on Him for our strength.


Jeff said...

Kokko - macaroni movie star!