The other day I caught myself debating about whether or not I should stop and use the restroom as I entered the grocery store. The single, but weighty fact in favor was that I really needed to go.
But, I reasoned, if I make myself wait until I get home, then I’m more likely to get only what’s on my list, get out, and get home to my family—in a hurry. There will be no mindless moseying, and no temptation to slip expensive and unnecessary novelty food items into the cart.
As the implications of my logic sank in, I had to laugh at myself, but I was also slightly disturbed…
Why would it even occur to me to try to motivate myself to shop expediently—by means that would be punishable under the Geneva Convention? Shouldn’t good stewardship of time and money be its own motivation for a servant of God?
My intermittent affair with fitness is similarly dysfunctional. The camera does not lie (annoying), and it informs me that my metabolism has officially reached middle-age.
So what do I do?
Well, I download an app to my phone that reminds me to exercise, records my workouts, and helps me keep track of what I’m eating. Then, I solicit my Facebook friends to download the app as well, so they can view every detail of my diet and and follow my workouts. This is because I know that at some point, the whole fitness thing will seem hopeless or just not worth it to me. But hey, if Janice might see when I eat a cupcake, and Lori will know if I skip a workout or two…now that’s motivation!
Finally, and probably most alarming to me is how much oomph is added to my pursuit of God by some sort of external accountability.
A young lady recently asked me if I would mentor her. I greedily and enthusiastically agreed. This is just the sort of opportunity I live for—plus, I just really enjoy her company! Excitedly, I began to think over basic personal discipleship principles we could discuss together, including lifestyle and use of time (and how they reflect / shape what we really live for). As I did, I became painfully aware that my “Follow me as I follow Christ,” would be more of a vulnerable, “Follow me as I straighten up, fix my own broken priorities, and start following Christ myself.”
That’s not all bad. I suppose anyone who approaches spiritual leadership honestly will be confronted with their own weaknesses and failures. And modeling open, vulnerable repentance might be one of the most challenging and encouraging things a leader can do for those they are trying to love and serve.
What bothers me, though, is the fact that a simple desire to know God and be all I can be for him only pushed me so far. I didn’t take an honest assessment of my own priorities or determine to step up my game—until I had a new level of responsibility to someone else.
Why is that? Why does the vehicle (discipline, accountability, etc.) become more important / motivating than the thing we were trying to do in the first place (knowing, loving, and partnering with God). And how do we prevent this from happening?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…