I’ve been a Christian for 20 years now, and still, there are parts of the Bible I just don’t get.
I think my all time favorite is Exodus 4:24, the very next verse after God sends Moses packing off to Egypt for his big mission: “At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him.” Best segue ever. What follows is even weirder, but I’ll leave that for your enjoyment. Back to the subject at hand…
What got me started on this was last Sunday’s sermon, when our preacher mentioned the familiar passage in Philippians 1:20-23. The most well-known segment is verse 21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
While I’ve never doubted this was true for Paul, I’m pretty sure I haven’t embraced that philosophy myself. I’ve always been a member of the “to live is awesome, and to die is an unfortunate inevitability” camp. Nonetheless, the verse made me wonder what I would write, if forced to be totally honest.
The truth is, I compartmentalize my life into these different buckets; I have a label for each of them, complete with a running tally of how I’m doing.
So here we go; I’m going to share with you the Epistle of Lloyd, Chapter 2, Verse 14:
For to me, to live is:
- Relationships. This is a big bucket with a bunch of little ones inside it. Each has a label and I like to make sure I have them all covered. Am I calling Mom enough? Am I abiding as a Dude among my buddies? Do my Bosses think I’m funny and nice, as well as smart and competent? Do “the Ladies” enjoy my company? One day, I might even be asking whether my Wife still loves me or whether I’m doing a good job with my Kids.
- Finance. This bucket looks more like a wallet. Am I in debt? Am I prepared for eventualities? Might I buy a house one day? How am I looking for retirement?
- Health/Fitness. This bucket is the one I wear over my head at the gym. Could I run a 5k if my life depended on it? How’s that 6-pack coming along? Will I be climbing a 5.12 any time soon? Am I old enough to start worrying about cholesterol? Am I getting enough sleep? Is anyone going to think I’m a fatty at my high school reunion?
- Personal Development. This is the bucket that would be painted in awesome colors if I had art skills. (I don’t.) Do I want to learn some new guitar scales this year? Como es mi español? Have I read any good books lately? Are my coding skills improving at work? Why haven’t I blogged in forever?
- Ron Paul. Ha, just kidding… he doesn’t get his own bucket. (The only person I’m kidding is myself; I think I might have given him three.)
And last, but not least (or is it?), we have God. Or Jesus. Or Religion. Christianity. Whatever you want to call it — it’s a spiritual bucket. It sounds kind of like a ghost pail, and in practice it can be just as nebulous.
- Church/Spiritual Life. This bucket is the one I carry my Bible in. Have I been going to church x times a week? How is small group going? Am I reading my bible often enough? How’s my prayer life? Am I giving the right amount financially? Do I teach as often as I want?
I guess the truth is, “for me, to live is some Christ, but mostly a bunch of other stuff.”
Honestly though, are those other things bad? I truly believe they aren’t. Keeping your house in order is a good thing. There’s a lot of wisdom to feeding your important relationships, keeping a tab on your finances, maintaining your physical body.
The problem comes when I get way too invested in my bucket collection. God gives me this life, along with all the benefits and responsibilities it entails. I arrange them nicely on my wall and try to make sure they stay in good shape. Didn’t Jesus say I need to have something to show for the talents I was given? He did.
What He did not say is that those talents are mine to own. I’m merely a steward, and God very well may come and decide He needs use of one — or all — of them at any time. The temptation we face at this point is to throw ourselves in front of them and declare that we have everything arranged perfectly. In what is a most ludicrous situation, there are times when I think God’s intervention will mess up what I have going. Never mind that all I have belongs to Him. Never mind that He has graced me with His presence in coming to claim something with which I’ve been entrusted. Never mind that He knows best how to use what I have, and never mind that His purpose is to grow the Kingdom, rather than make my bucket-shelf look awesome.
I think Job dealt with that confrontation. He had all his buckets in a very nice arrangement. God gave him things and Job took really good care of them. As a direct result of Job’s good stewardship, God allowed Satan to come in and kick the mess out of his buckets. He completely destroyed most of them, and nearly killed Job in the process.
That is not how it’s supposed to work. At least, that’s how I think. That’s how Job’s friends thought… and that’s how Job thought too. We know that despite the major disruption, Job remained faithful to God (even amid serious questions), and in the end God gave him new buckets to hold.
The truth about life is that buckets come and go. If we’re afraid to lose them, we bury them in the dirt like the unfaithful servant: “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.” If we take great care of them, we may watch God grow them into something awesome, only to require them of us when we least expect it.
I don’t know how to reconcile the fear of losing God’s gifts with the investment required to take care of them. I do know it’s something Jesus did really well. I also trust that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
Life is a good thing. I’m not going to worry about losing buckets to the point that I refuse to enjoy them. I only hope that if and when God comes to claim them, I have the sense to let Him do His work and anticipate what He’s got planned.