My dad uses his feet like hands, much like a gorilla opening a banana, when he loses frisbees in the pond at the disc golf course.
He’s not above stripping down to his shorts and diving in to recover discs. The pond is dark brown and is populated with turtles, snakes and frogs. If his disc lands in it, he walks around with his bare feet feeling in calf deep mud for it. Just typing that last sentence made me squirm a little.
But the course we played in Atlanta didn’t have that problem. There was no pond, just 18 holes of awesome spread across a massive park called “Wills.”
It did have a problem though.
Because the course was so spread out, it was hard to find your way from hole to hole. Some were literally a 1,000 yards away from each other so navigating the course was difficult. Or it used to be. Everything changed when a Boy Scout got involved.
He was earning his Eagle Scout badge. He was installing yardage signs that pointed the way between the holes. My dad and I ran into him one morning. He and his father were digging holes and dropping the poles in. When they told us what they were doing, the father said something that years later stuck with me. He said:
“He’s doing it for his Eagle Scout badge. Sure beats building a bench.”
On the surface, that’s not so profound. That doesn’t really leap off the blog does it? But the more I reflected on it, the more I realized it challenged my understanding of God.
See the truth is, I’m not completely sure God wants me to have fun. Like people who believe the first thing God will do if they turn over their lives to him is make them be missionaries in Africa, I’m not always convinced he wants me to really enjoy what I do.
When I sometimes imagine “doing the work of the Lord,” I imagine sweat and tears and hard work and being obedient and disciplined and self controlled. Turns out, in my head, I serve a God who makes me build benches.
But what if I’m wrong?
What if you’re wrong?
What if we’ve all been wrong?
What if God doesn’t want more benches?
What if God wants you to build signs for Disc Golf because he knows you love that game?
What if God wants you to write books because he knows you love that?
What if God wants to unearth all those things you’ve hidden because you thought you weren’t talented enough? What if he wants you to roll around in the joys you thought were too silly or stupid or not spiritual enough?
I don’t think that’s impossible. A friend of man argued as much when he told me his opinion about Matthew 11:28-30. Here’s what those verses say:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
My friend felt that when we find our purpose. When we surrender and are obedient to the Lord and find the thing he has uniquely prepared us for, the burden feels light. It feels easy. We’re in the zone. We could run a million miles or feed a thousand mouths or sing a 100 songs depending on what we’ve been called to do. We’ve got the entire universe of God pushing with us and there’s a sense of freedom and momentum there that is difficult to describe.
To other people, what we are doing will look difficult. They will not always understand. I felt that way writing the Stuff Christians Like book. Another blogger quit his job and stopped writing his blog while he wrote his book. He didn’t have any kids either. I on the other hand, kept my full time job at AutoTrader.com, kept writing the Stuff Christians Like blog, kept playing with my two kids, kept freelance writing for Chick-fil-A, kept writing for North Point Community Church, stayed plugged into my men’s Bible study and kept filling my wife’s bucket with attention and time. How?
The yoke was easy. The burden was light. I was doing the thing uniquely created for me. I wasn’t flailing against a park bench I was never designed for. I was serving the God “who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:5)
Life gets twisted when you try to build someone else’s bench. Life gets painful when you disrespect your gift or talent or calling because it “doesn’t count.” The devil is desperate for you to discount the thing God has called you to. The devil wants you to take on some other burden that isn’t light or easy.
I don’t know what God has in store for you. It won’t necessarily be easy. That Boy Scout was sweating as he dug those Disc Golf signs. Stuff Christians Like whips my butt some mornings. But that Boy Scout was smiling as he sweated and so am I because we’re not building benches.
Long live the God who doesn’t need our benches.
p.s. The reaction to this post has been interesting. A handful of people have read the post as if it says, “Life in Christ will be simple and fun.” One reader, in a comment that was honestly well written and thought provoking said, “I think it’s a poor interpretation of the matthew 11 text when we suggest putting on Christ means being called to play ultimate frisbee and evangelize in movie theaters and Starbucks coffee shops.”
My push back would be that I didn’t say it would be fun or easy. In fact, the post says, “It won’t necessarily be easy.” But more than that, I think the story of the Boy Scout has been misread. I didn’t say he was playing frisbee. I didn’t say he was having fun. I said that he was sweating. He was working. He was building a sign so that other people could enjoy Disc Golf. He was working so that others could have fun. He was serving. I described my process of writing the SCL book the same way. I didn’t say I had fun, I said “I was serving the God “who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:5)”
I think the feedback has been great and I welcome it, but I also think we really need to be careful when we automatically interpret a post about God’s goodness for our life as a watering down of what it means to follow Christ. We are promised by Christ in John 10:10 that in this world we will have trouble and I was not trying to refute that claim. I was simply saying that when you serve the Lord in the way he has uniquely created you to, there is a peace that is different from when you try to be someone you’re not called to be.