Though rather unrelated in focus, today’s post is a continuation of my thoughts on the Matthew 7 sermon.
Actually, it’s a bit of a personal reflection, stemming from a single line in the sermon that I found particularly jolting.
For purposes of illustration, the pastor chose that day to engage the congregation with an imaginative dream sequence. The story was told in the second person, making every soul in attendance the subject. We were to imagine ourselves in a city with throngs of others, making our way to some unseen destination. Only when we had nearly reached the wall of the city could we see that the wide, easy gate so many were eagerly clamoring toward, led to horror, destruction, and death. It was then that we joined a very few others who were desperately, wildly, breaking from the crowd in order to reach—and squeeze through—a very tiny gate and onto a rough, narrow, overgrown path. But that unlikely, constricted, little path led to paradise and eternity with God.
I’m not gonna lie—I was a little skeptical when I was invited to embark on a dream journey in the middle of a sermon, but this one was harmless and it turned out to be a useful and evocative illustration. What really got me, though, was the simple phrase with which the pastor concluded our little saga.
Where you are going, determines the path you will take.
When I heard that, I was arrested on the spot. I lost the next couple minutes of the sermon. I was momentarily consumed with the question, Where am I trying to go? Why do I live the way I live—really?
Sure, my destiny is secure in Christ. And yes, I’ve offered my life to him (big picture), but how much of what I do in a day, a week, a month, or a year is out of a desire to love and serve my God?
It occurred to me that the predominant and recurring theme of the Sermon on the Mount is heart and motive. That theme is there in the you have heard it said, but I tell you‘s of chapter 5. It’s in the giving, praying, and fasting in secret and the where we store our treasures of chaper 6. It’s in the who, why, and how we judge of chapter 7.
This realization could have fueled the flame of my tendencies toward lopsided and crippling self-scrutiny. I might have glanced around in a panic, comparing myself to those who seem to do so much more for God, church, and humankind than I do. I might have lamented that I had somehow made myself unavailable to God—or rejected his purpose for my life. Afterall, I’m just an ordinary stay-at-home mom, taking life as it comes.
But then I remembered something often spoken by a steadying voice of wisdom in my life.
Living for God is done in the details of everyday, ordinary life. It’s about making our lives an invitation to God.
It isn’t about a hasty or guilt-driven decision to start a ministry, to volunteer for x amount of hours a week, or to implement a strict plan for family devotions. If I practice inviting God to participate with me as I work, teach, eat, play, rest, think, and talk in my moment by moment life, that interaction will ultimately shape those “bigger,” directional decisions.
Where I am going, will determine the path I take. In other words, my motives decide my course. What I do is very important, but the why is more important.
Do I try to listen for and be sensitive to God’s prompting throughout the day as I teach my kids, talk on the phone, utilize Facebook, or run errands around town? Am I interested in knowing what he sees in people (including me), or what his heart is for them? Would I be listening if he told me that someone needed to be hugged, encouraged, or reminded of their beauty and value? If God’s heart, God’s priorities, and God’s prompting are not the real motives behind how I interact with those around me, what are? Comfort? Control? Self-protection? My image, maybe?
Do I take advantage of opportunities to invest in others, or do I avoid, and even resent, anything that disrupts my precious schedule?
Do I desire and welcome God’s correction for wrong thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors as they come up—or do I casually incubate and sustain bad habits in my life until the Holy Spirit has to convict me with a two-by-four and repentance feels like trying to turn an oil tanker on a dime?
When it’s time for relaxation or recreation, do I even want God with me? When I’m playing outdoors in his creation, do I share my gratitude and wonder with him? Do I want him along on those precious and hard to come by date nights? Is he invited to hang out and watch the movie with me? Do I even care if he would like the movie? Do I want to share celebrations, adventures, and times of rest with him, or do I view leisure as a way to escape from him and his demands?
That’s a lot of questions—challenging questions. But, if I’m honest, they aren’t that difficult to answer. I’ll have to work hard to assess and adjust my priorities each day, but I am fully convinced that God will enthusiastically accept any sincere invitation to participate in my life.
It’s that hard, and it’s that easy.
The way to store up treasures in heaven, to invest my life for his kingdom, is to invite him to participate in the everyday details. It happens when I make the little, unseen decisions out of a sincere desire to love, honor, and bless him. Those seemingly insignificant decisions—and the motives behind them—will determine the path I take. They will become my habits, my perspectives, my defaults, and the guides for the overall course of my life.