The difficulty in deciding to follow Jesus lies not only in that initial leap of faith, but in the long and arduous journey of following through. Temptations abound to draw us off track, the worst of which is simply habit. Since I cut up that “emergency” credit card, which had assisted so proficiently in landing me thousands of dollars in debt, I have been amazed by how much I relied on it to ease me through my cash-poor life. A mere two days after shredding the card, I found myself in line at the store handing back a hefty portion of groceries because there wasn’t enough money in my wallet. I’d shopped without considering the cost because I was so accustomed to using my credit card to fill in the financial gap between what I wanted and what I needed. Thank you, merciful God, that the cashier and two ladies behind me in line were as sweet as pie about it. It was pretty embarrassing.
The next day, I almost had to get out of the latte drive-through line because I’d forgotten to check for cash in my wallet. I rarely carry cash because it has been so much more simple to use credit. That way, it wasn’t necessary to figure out ahead of time whether or not I had enough money with me. Fortunately (or not), my wallet held a few dollars and I didn’t have to get out of line. Then this morning, while online, I ordered some small thing and it wasn’t until I began to type my credit card information that I remembered I don’t have one anymore. Old habits die hard. In fact, old habits take a long, long time to die. They die kicking and screaming. Old habits die making a terrific scene. It’s been less than a week since I gave up credit and I’m thinking already of giving the old habit an Oscar for Best Drama.
It is so automatic a gesture to reach for the credit card that at first I didn’t quite know what to do. My brain simply froze for a second or two. Even worse was the sharp prick of fear in my gut, “What if I want and can’t ever have?” For a moment I saw myself as a teenager, hungering for everything and affording nothing. I remembered the popular girls at school when I was thirteen, with their noses firmly in the air, saying, “We don’t like you because of your clothes.” Like a flash of lightning, I suddenly saw what money had come to mean for me – worth, freedom, control, success, self-sufficiency, a kind of “I don’t need you” layer of protection against those who will not like me.
What does money mean to God? “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Clear as a bell. Well, amen. It makes perfect sense, does it not?
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
Hmmm. I’m sure I want to serve God only, but what if God views food and clothing with so little interest as to warrant shopping at only Wal-Mart for the rest of my life? Oh, say it isn’t so! I happen to appreciate well-made, high quality goods. I mean, Wal-Mart is all right in a pinch for a dish drainer or a trash can, but I prefer to shop for my clothes elsewhere. Mind you, I’m not talking about dropping $1200 on a pair of Jimmy Choo’s. I just want to shop J. Jill, Land’s End, LL Bean, and the like.
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
Yes, but God, they eat worms.
“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
I’m short and round; obviously worrying hasn’t worked well for me. In fact, that’s a good way of saying that even though buying clothes increases my endorphins, it’s really only an illusion of control and self-sufficiency. While I’m busy feeling good about myself and in control of my life, the opposite is really true. That is why I must trust God to provide. Even so, Lord, I just want to mention that I prefer beautiful things.
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
“Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
Wow. You really do love me, God! Silly me, of course you do. Jesus didn’t die for the birds of the air or the grass of the field. He died for me, and silly, silly me, He didn’t die merely to clothe me well. My eyes were on my circumstances, not my Lord. I’m sorry, God. Dress me according to your will, not mine. If creation is any measure of your taste, I’ve nothing to worry about.
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
That’s right! Seek first the kingdom. Seek God. Look to the cross for proof of my significance. Trust and obey. And God’s provision satisfies.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:24-34).
Thanks, God, for smoothing out the furrows on my brow. You know you rock, God. It won’t be easy, but I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge of following through. Love you.