I lived north of Dallas when I attended seminary. Two days a week, at the crack of dawn, I would make the 45 minute drive to the train station, take a 45 minute train ride, and then jump on the bus for an additional 15 minutes before finally arriving at school. I would attend class from 7:45 am until 4:30 (most semesters) and make the trek back home. I did that for almost 5 years and at times it was very trying. To make the trip bearable I would stop in Plano, TX, a suburb of Dallas, at Braum’s (a local burger and ice cream place) and buy myself a sweet treat. This particular Braum’s shared a parking lot with the gymnastic training center in which Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson, both Olympic Gold Medal winners in the women’s all-around competition, train(ed) every day.
I would see so many cars in the lot and most of them were there EVERY time I went by, 4 times a week. My car also spent quite a bit of time in that same parking lot. The reason for my visits were very different though. I found it quite humorous that my schedule brought me to the same place as these elite athletes on a regular basis but the nature of our visits were different… no, they were disparate.
I was attempting to satiate my need for a sugary treat which added pounds to my physique and shortened my life by years. Meanwhile, these two athletes, along with many others, were torturing their bodies to hone their gymnastic skills and in the best shape of their life. The two motives had nothing in common.
It hit me one day as I was joking with someone about going “by” the gym before heading home after class. (Technically, I was going “by” the gym. Sure I never went in, I just went by it…) There are many people doing this same thing with their relationship with God. It is all about how you approach it. Do you approach Jesus with a consumer mindset, needing to fill an immediate need with little to no effort? Or do you approach Jesus with a commitment to do whatever it takes to learn and grow? I know this metaphor breaks down pretty easily but there are some significant lessons to be learned here though. Case in point, when things were even a little difficult to get to the Braum’s because of street repair I quickly changed my route. Luckily, there was a different store I could score my high fructose fix on the new route. It did not hurt my feelings going to a different store, though it did sort of miff me having to take a slightly longer route for 6 weeks. I had no real connection with that particular Braum’s. I did not know any of the workers by name. I had no investment in that store. It was easy and convenient to stop there so I did. When it wasn’t easy I went somewhere else, no big deal.
Not so for those gymnasts. No, they were there no matter what was going on. They were there when it was convenient and when it wasn’t. They were invested. They spent countless hours with a trainer who knew them VERY well, in a facility they were truly vested in.
So, I had to ask myself, “do I come to Jesus to simply fill a need that could be filled by something else?” “Or, do I invest lock, stock, and barrel in Jesus because I see my need, I see what he has to offer, and I want all of it?” There was a point in time I went to church for others. I started back to church when I was teen because of a girl. Later, I went to church for myself. I wanted to fill the need in my own life of being good. Quite frankly, it made me feel good to go to church, so that was the reason I went. But there was a point that I no longer went to church simply for myself. I found myself going because I had bought into the faith as a whole. I saw (and still see today) the transforming power of the Gospel. I saw people with the peace of God. I came to the understanding that being a believer is not about making yourself feel good. Rather, it is serving the One that gave his life for me. That is real investment.
So I always tell people I regularly went by the gym where 2 Olympic gold medalists trained even though anyone who knows me can tell it was for the ice cream… But by doing so it helped me see a truth about Christ.
When it comes to Christ and Christianity are you an investor or consumer?