Do the Hard Thing

I’m a lazy person. Laziness is a default for me. It sneaks up on me, slips in when I’m not looking. I gravitate towards the path of least resistance. I can wish that wasn’t true of me, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

Laziness can be a motivator – hear me out before you roll your eyes. A lazy person will find the quickest, most efficient way to get something accomplished. Along with being lazy, I crave efficiency. Not for any lofty reason; purely because I don’t want any wasted effort. If I’m going to do something, I don’t want to waste my time doing it the long way, or the wrong way. If I don’t waste time on an activity, I can waste it on a nap later (insert cheesy grin here).

It galls me like nothing else to find that I have been inefficient. Like when I go to the grocery store, for example. I typically have the layout of the store mapped in my head, and I arrange my “hunt and gather” session with that in mind. So when I go in, I can start on one side and go to the other, gathering everything I need in between, without having to backtrack. A successful grocery store run will take me 30 minutes or less, even if I’m shopping for a couple of weeks. Efficiency is the key. When I go to the store and get halfway through my list, then realize I’ve forgotten one tiny little item and will have to backtrack to get it…well I just can’t really explain the level of frustration associated with that. If I can do without the item, I do. That’s how bad I hate to backtrack.

There are times though when my laziness, my gravitation toward the path of least resistance, is in direct opposition to my quest for efficiency, and ends up costing me time, money, well-being, peace, joy. It’s a high price. I’ve recently walked through one of those times, am more recently on the other side of it, and have spent some time reflecting. Also, my normal Bible reading has taken me into Proverbs, and chapters 3, 4, and 5 are really reinforcing the truths that have been at play in this season. That’s always fun, don’t you think? (While I’m being sarcastic here, the truth is that I couldn’t have received the word that the Holy Spirit had for me prior to having recognized His truth. If my normal reading in Proverbs had taken place a couple of weeks ago, it wouldn’t have arrowed into my heart the way it has. As it is, since the scales have fallen from my eyes, I can see the wisdom and truth contained in His word in these particular chapters, and I’m thankful for it.)

All joking aside, we have a Savior who loves us, and while He will never withhold the truth from us, He will never shame us for falling short of it. Isn’t that a miracle? That’s just beyond comprehension for me. It startles me every single time. I know that even though I spent a month ignoring Him and His truth, when He finally got my attention about it, He did not shame me. He just loved me. I had a choice to make, and He faithfully presented me with it, and was kind enough to show me potential outcomes for each choice. Thankfully He got my attention enough that this time I listened, and He enabled me to do the hard thing.

That’s not something I do easily – or well, for that matter. The hard thing. If it’s hard, I’m typically pretty far away from it. Again, laziness is my default. I’m realizing just how far this tendency towards laziness goes, and it’s an area for Christ to do His awesome work. I think what is so lowering, so discouraging is that the particular situation I found myself in is one I’ve been in before. You’d think I would have learned the lesson of it, but I didn’t. I hope I have this time, but only time and testing will tell.

Oh I pray I pass the next test!

Doing the hard thing is, by its very nature, not an easy decision. I wish that we were not presented with situations where we have to make that hard choice. But life with Jesus just isn’t that way. I wonder about that sometimes. Wonder about the necessity of walking with Jesus being so counterintuitive. I re-read the Beatitudes the other day. It is a magnificent list of absolutely counterintuitive attitudes and mindsets. The Gospels are filled with hard choices where one must decide to go against everything they know, everything they feel, everything they want. Those situations, as we all know, are not confined to the pages of our sacred text. They happen over and over and over again in our day to day lives. Again, I wish it weren’t so, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

Intellectually I know that there are reasons why God has set it up the way He has. Why we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. There is a reason why we must choose to do what doesn’t feel good. Why we must make the hard choice.

I am also fanatically thankful that we can make the hard choice at any point in the journey. Even after we’ve made the easy choice. Even after we’ve started down the wrong road, we can still come back. Isn’t He marvelous!

It is disheartening to realize that I am prone to failure, and have failed spectacularly, even after walking with Jesus for the last almost year and a half. As close as I have been to Him, as much as I love Him and long for Him and devour His word, I still failed. I still took the easy way. I still went down the path of least resistance. And it was sneaky and slippery and sly. The feelings, the emotions, associated with this choice were wonderful, beautiful, and I went with them. I stopped looking at Jesus and started looking at the shiny prize right in front of me, and I followed it. I put what felt good to me above what I knew to be right.

Once that choice had been made, the Hound of Heaven came after me. That’s an unpleasant experience. If you are His, if you bear His name, His mark on your soul, He will come after you if you fall away. I praise Him for that truth right now, but I was not as thrilled in the pursuit. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. I wanted Him to accommodate me for just this one thing. I wanted Him to leave me alone about the fact that the easy choice I made wasn’t in His plan for me, was contrary to His revealed character, contrary to what I knew to be right, yet still fill me with Himself and His inspiration and goodness and mercy and love. I just wanted Him to do it my way this time. He doesn’t play that game, though. It’s His way or my way, but I can’t have it both. He must be faithful to Himself, and above all He is holy and righteous and pure.

I also have a great capacity for ignoring the obvious when I don’t want to see it, don’t want to acknowledge it. Not only can I ignore the elephant in the room, I can pretend it doesn’t even exist. I can talk and emote and work and just act like it’s not even there. And then find myself stumped when things aren’t going right, when I miss the peace and joy that I’ve become accustomed to. I’m just clueless. Lots of prayers, many monologues took place during my sojourn on the easy path, where I flung question after question about why this or that was going south, why it had all changed, why everything was harder now. I threw the questions but closed my ears to the answers.

When Jesus finally got my attention, it still took me over a week before I truly and fully committed to the action required. Once again I felt that I had gone too far and there wasn’t a way out of where I found myself. Getting out was too hard. Changing what I had chosen, undoing what I had done was the next hard thing. Oh that was a hard choice. Here again, I’m prone to laziness, to taking the easy route. Gathering the courage to actually make the decision to do what I knew to be right was a walk in the park compared to gathering the courage to act on it.

That’s where I fail a lot. That’s where a lot of us fail. Acting on the truth is sometimes brutally hard. It impacts too many things, we think. If I make this choice it’s going to hurt someone I love, it’s going to cause hardship, hard feelings, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, loss, pain, heartache. Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it’s just what we tell ourselves because at the core we really don’t want to act on the truth.

I went through all those mental gymnastics in the week and a half between acknowledging the truth and acting on it. I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t assure me that my fears were groundless. He presented me with the truth, and the choice I had to make to act on it, then left it there in my hands. He didn’t try to persuade me. He didn’t reassure me. He didn’t tell me over and over that what I feared would not happen. I wanted Him to. I would have felt so much better about making the choice if He had assured me that I had nothing to fear. But He didn’t. How interesting.

I think I know why, at least in part. I remember watching the movie “Facing the Giants” and a particular scene where the female lead character was faced with the reality that what she wanted most in the world may never happen. She had to come to a place of trust and peace and know that she would love God whether her greatest desire ever came to be or not. In the movie, it was right after she made that choice, made the declaration that she would love Him anyway, that her fondest desire came true. It’s not always that neat and easy in real life. Sometimes the fondest desires must be abandoned. But the choice to follow and to love remains. We must reach the point where we love Him more than anything, whether we gain what we want most or not.

More, we must reach the point where what we want most is Him and Him alone, at all costs, above all else, regardless of what hell on earth we will walk through. No, Jesus didn’t reassure me that my fears were unfounded. He didn’t reassure me that what I worried about the most wouldn’t happen if I would only choose to follow Him. What He did do was show me that what I wanted the most would be further away than ever, and that I ran the risk of losing even the capacity for it, if I continued down the road I was on. He reminded me of what I desired most before something shiny came along and I gave it my attention. He reminded me of where He brought me from, of the joy He had given me, of the peace I had found with Him, of the exhilaration of walking with Him.

With those reminders, I found that I really had no choice but to follow Him. I can wish that it hadn’t taken me a week and a half to make that choice, but the truth is it did. Taking a hard and honest look at the journey I have taken with Him over the last year and four months, I know to my very marrow that nothing else can offer me what He can. Nothing else can fulfill me like He can. Nothing else is as true and real and pure and honest as He is. Even if this is all I ever have, it is all I will ever need. This is the truth I’m standing on.

He is so good, too. He is so kind and faithful. He is so loving and merciful. Once again, I find myself living out Romans 8:1. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He does not condemn me for the easy choice I made. He does not condemn me for taking my eyes off Him for a time. He does not condemn me and will not withhold Himself from me to make me pay for ignoring Him and doing things my way. He doesn’t punish. He loves. Endlessly, sacrificially, wholly, completely.

I still have no guarantee that what I fear will not take place. It may not take place immediately; it may be down the road. There may be, and likely will be, consequences for the easy choice I made. That’s something I will just have to accept, should it happen. He doesn’t always remove the consequences of our actions, does He? But what I do know is that He is the one thing I cannot do without. He is the mainstay, He is the foundation. There is nothing so shiny and bright that can take the place of the King of kings. Nothing is so beautiful as He. Nothing is as right as He is.

We are all faced with hard decisions, times where following Christ is the opposite of what everyone else says. Where it’s going to cause the most hardship and the most loss in this life. There are times where relationships will end, where jobs will be lost, where finances and comfort will be sacrificed. There will be times where we will be uncomfortable and scared and wish we had never been faced with these choices. But He’s worth it. If we lose everything else but gain a right relationship with Jesus Christ, we have gained something of immense and immeasurable price. No relationship, no job, no finance, no comfort is greater than the King of kings.

If my brief trip down the easy road can teach anyone anything, I pray it is this: do the hard thing. It’s worth it.

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