I bet most of you don’t know that July is national ice cream month and this Sunday, July 17th, is national ice cream day (note to self: Google free ice cream offers for Sunday). Ice cream is certainly a favorite for my kids as it was for me and my sisters when we were kids. My sisters and I always got a kick out of making our own ice cream at home. Every once in a great while my parents were willing to drag out the ice cream maker and undertake the arduous task of creating homemade ice cream. A lot of work went into a little bit of ice cream, but we always thought it was worth it. Nothing beats homemade ice cream. So why go and buy ice cream at the store if it isn’t as good? Simple. Because it is easier. We are willing to settle for lower quality in order to save effort.
Unfortunately, that turns out to be a very compelling metaphor for a lot of things in life.
A major claim against Christianity by nonbelievers (and some believers) is that Christians do not walk their talk. Jesus and the Apostles modeled a lifestyle that few modern Christians follow. The Bible teaches principles and values that would make the world a significantly better place if a larger portion of its population practiced them rather than merely considered them.
So why don’t we?
Because living the Christian life and upholding Christian principles and values require a strong connection with God. Our human nature prevents us from fully expressing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control on our own. We need a strong reliance upon Jesus every single day. And that takes effort. Effort that most people aren’t willing to exert.
It is much easier to go to church for an hour a couple Sundays a month and let the worship leader sing the songs for you and the pastor read the Bible and pray to Jesus for you. It is easier to believe and not act. It is easier to put on the Christian moniker than the armor of God.
Let’s face it. Just like that homemade ice cream, we know that having our own relationship with Jesus is so much better! And just like that ice cream, we find ourselves willing to scrimp on quality in order to save on effort. We rely on others to do our praying for us. We wait for others to prompt our Bible reading or share Scriptures they’ve read. We get lazy or busy or tired or distracted.
Stop settling for store-made Jesus. Make your own relationship with Him.
Most relationships start out really good. Like homemade ice cream good. And it is because we are willing to put forth the effort to meet the other person’s emotional needs. We listen. We encourage. We smile and touch. We say nice things. We spend time together. We have fun together.
Unfortunately, most relationships go the way of the ice cream. Life gets complicated. Time gets filled with obligations and responsibilities. We get jobs or take on hobbies or make other friends or join groups or have kids. Our plate gets fuller and fuller, so the effort we once put into the relationship slowly erodes.
Isn’t it easier just to talk to your friend or get the attaboy from work or get affection from the kids or have fun with our hobbies? That’s where we spend much of our time. That’s where much of our effort already goes. Two birds. One stone. Right?
Only if you want a store-made relationship. And those don’t feel too good or last too long. Keep making the homemade ice cream in your marriage. It takes effort, but it is so much better!
Wow, kids need so much time and effort! If you’re a parent, you know that your day can easily be filled with your kids’ needs and activities. If you want to get anything else done, then you need to find something to occupy your kids. That means school, daycare, their friends’ houses, babysitters, television shows, video games, etc.
I have seen many parents burn-out. They start out with such good intentions and high hopes and then their energy and effort is sucked out of them. It is easier just to let their child watch whatever television he wants, whenever he wants. It is easier to give them a video game to play for hours. It is so much easier when they go to school or daycare. Parents slip from homemade ice cream to store-made ice cream with their parenting.
I have also seen the other extreme. This is the parent that not only makes homemade ice cream, but built the machine herself. She doesn’t use ice cream mix, she makes her own from scratch. She doesn’t put chocolate flavoring in, she has organic raw chocolate that she prepares to flavor the ice cream. She chips the salt from the rock herself. Parents can take it too far and allow their kids to take all their effort and time so that relationships, faith walk, and their own identity suffer for it.
The key is balance. Don’t get lazy and settle for the store-made version of family. But, don’t get so crazy with the homemade version that there are no boundaries and the parent’s identity, self-worth, and life purpose is wrapped up in their kids.
We live in the age of modern convenience, so the idea of putting effort into anything for a sustained period of time is ridiculous to our sensibility. We naturally seek the path of least resistance in everything – relationship work, housework, schoolwork, work work. We only have so much time and energy in a day and too many things are pulling at it – including our own laziness.
Balance looks different for everyone. The key is evaluating your tendencies and tweaking your behavior until you are spending the right amount of effort on the things that are the most important. If you want a life, a faith, a marriage, and a family that is à la homemade ice cream, then you need to do the steps that it takes to produce it. Stop settling for the store-made stuff. It may seem easier in the moment, but we all know that scrimping on quality will disappoint and frustrate us in the long-run.
Recently I was studying the book of John and I found myself struck by the story of Jesus healing the blind man at the beginning of chapter 9. This man had been born blind and spent his life begging near the temple. He catches Jesus’ attention and Jesus does heal him, but here’s the thing – Jesus could have healed the man with a thought, a word, or a touch.
Instead, Jesus spit on the dirt and made mud with it.
Into the dirt.
To make mud.
And then He put it on the guy’s eyes.
Spit-mud on the guy’s broken eyes.
In the ESV, it says that Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with the mud. Jesus didn’t just slather it on like some first-century spa treatment.
He anointed the man.
Anointed – consecrated, made sacred, sanctified, taken for use, called for divine service
With mud made from spit.
Jesus used gunk to make this man sacred, to call him to the divine.
This man had a choice when Jesus applied the spit-mud to his eyes. He could freak out and run away or he could trust Jesus and see the situation through. He could get angry at Jesus for the gunk, blame Jesus for the gunk, and allow the gunk to separate him from Jesus. Or, he could choose to let Jesus transform the gunk into an anointing, into something that would make him sacred.
We are all broken. We all have gunk.
You have gunk.
What choice are you making with your gunk? Are you freaking out, running away, getting angry, blaming Jesus, and letting it separate you from your Savior? Or, are you trusting Jesus, seeing it through, letting Jesus transform it into your anointing?
If you read the story, you will find that the gunk did not heal the man’s brokenness. The gunk was the anointing.
What healed him was his trust and obedience.
Jesus anointed the man’s eyes with the spit-mud and then told him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam is the Greek variation of the Hebrew word Shiloah, which means Sent. This particular pool is actually a mikvah near the temple. It was used to cleanse, purify, and make holy those who washed in it so they could enter the temple.
It was a baptismal pool.
And this pool was fed by the Spring of Gihon, which means bursting forth. It is fed by living water that is bursting forth.
The man was cleansed and purified of this gunk in the baptismal pool of the Sent that is fed by Living Water that is bursting forth. He was made holy, not so that he could enter the Jewish temple, but so that his brokenness could be healed, his blindness removed, his eyes opened. So he could become the temple.
When the disciples asked Jesus why this man was born blind, Jesus said that it was so the works of God could be displayed in him (verse 3). So that he could be anointed, made sacred, called into use.
This man’s brokenness prepared him for the gunk that would be his anointing.
We are all broken. We all have gunk. Our brokenness prepares us for the gunk.
The gunk is inevitable. We live in a gunky world. But, for those who trust and follow through, Jesus can use this gunk as an anointing that leads to a purification that makes us into a temple of the Holy Spirit.
God’s presence dwelling within you.
You are broken. You are blind. You have gunk. And you have a choice.
You can freak out and run away from Jesus or you can trust Him, let Him use it as an anointing, and see it through until He purifies you of it. He is the Living Water bursting forth. We are the Sent.
Here’s what it ultimately comes down to…
We all need Him.
Many of us want Him.
But few of us choose Him.
What will you do with your choice?