Thursday, August 14, 2008

Can't touch your toes? That's OK

Like so much of the world, Alyson and I have been glued to Olympics this week. Well, Alyson’s been glued. I make it until about 10:15 and fall asleep on the couch. I don’t know what time Alyson’s been going to bed, but it’s been late. We’ve been recording the gymnastics for Sophie. She loves the gymnastics. Sophie thinks she is a gymnast because she participated in Central High School’s kid’s gymnastics program last year. I asked Sophie if she thought someday she’d be able to do some of the flips and twists that the Olympians do. She said, “Yes . . . when I’m six.” Ah, the wide-open world of a four year old.

Reality is that the odds are stacked against her being able to do those things at that level even by the time she’s sixteen. As ridiculous as it seems, most Olympians have already been dedicated to the sport by Sophie’s age. Take the Chinese for the extreme example. They remove three-year-olds from their families and begin training them in special gymnastics programs. How do you spot gymnastics potential in a three year old? I’m afraid Sophie wouldn’t make the cut and it would be my fault. Neither her mother nor I can even touch our toes. But who knows? Maybe Sophie has some hidden recessive genes of flexibility.

In life, we’re always attempting to evaluate our own potential (and the potential of others) at some activity or another. Most of us don’t want to try an activity if we don’t think we’ll be able to succeed at it. Some of us, bound by perfectionism, won’t try an activity if we don’t think we’ll be able to be perfect at it. This can lead to a paralysis of life. That is especially true in the Kingdom of God. God asks us to do some pretty bold things as Christians. In fact, the things he asks us to do, like loving our enemies, serving the least of these, taking up our crosses – these things make the balance beam look down right tame. If we decide to act or not to act based only upon our own potential for success, we’ll never take even the first steps of obedience. Why? Because none of us have the potential to do such things. The good news is that God already knows that. He knows, and communicates to us, that the potential for obedience to his ways and purposes rests not with us, but with him. At church, we call that grace. Grace is what allows four year olds, thirty-four year olds, and eighty-four year olds to hear the commands of God and respond with a wide-open “Yes. . . I can do that . . . by God’s grace.”

We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us – 2 Corinthians 4:7

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