09 January, 2015

Snippets of Doom

I recently read a Facebook status by a major Christian personality stating he'd never missed a day of scripture reading. He went on to assert - insist - we should all take up that standard. He clearly stated it was wrong to skip a day of reading. I'm not living right unless I'm reading scripture daily. Such "snippets of doom" have ruled my life for a long, long time.

I am trying to "live better," so I have to engage with this man's assertion. Will reading scripture daily be part of my plan? What about Fasting? Diet? Exercise? Literature? Prayer? Savings? Insurance? Tithing? Charity? Tidiness? Checklists? Passion? ... Sleep?

Every one of those items has been declared mandatory if we want to "live right." (Except exercise. Paul said exercise is of little profit, so many Christians wipe that one clean off the table.) I want to "live better," so I'd better stop living wrong.

In fact, if I'd only quit living wrong, I'd be living better automatically ... without ever living at all!

Instead, let me share this quote from a tennis training podcast I heard the other day. "There's no right or wrong. There are only consequences."


Let's agree there are things at the ugly end of the spectrum that really are wrong and things at the lovely end of the spectrum that really are right, but focus for a blog minute on the stuff between those extremes. Should I improve upon my idea of "living better," and replace it with "living right?"

To my misguided ear, trying to live right sounds like the better strategy:
+ Living right conjures images of selecting an unimpeachably correct target then striving to reach it.
- Living better smells like taking a vague step somewhere in a general direction and hoping it ends well.
+ Living right copies the best method of navigating to a far-away city. Pinpoint the goal on the map and follow the instructions for getting there.
- Living better reeks of the process I use to enjoy a walk in the woods. Stumble across a promising path and wander where it leads.

Actually, that hippy-dippy "living better" stuff scares me to death. I instinctively want to know God's standard and the best way to achieve it. Full stop. The idea of proceeding without an ideal sounds like a recipe for becoming lost, and not in any good way. I genuinely fear hearing the Lord tell me, "Take from him the talent he has, and give it to the man who has ten." Living better sounds like the express lane to eternal vagrancy

Still, I'm committed to vagrancy these days and I think I like it.

Looking back across the years, living right didn't make me the righteous man of my dreams. Living as if I were holier than I was paralyzed me. I was afraid to live at all. A man who does nothing does none of it wrong, but he doesn't live.

I think I'm a fundamentalist-ish outlier in this whole area. I believe a good number of people are pretty comfortable with the first part of my quote, "There is no right or wrong." It's popular these days to quit doing everything the preachers call mandatory. So, I'm probably not alone if I do not commit to read the Bible every day. Still, if I resist my fundamentalist nature and quit trying to live right, I still stagnate if I don't aggressively choose to live better.

Daily scripture reading is neither right nor wrong, but we choose our consequences when we decide how we'll use our Bibles. There are questions only God and His children can answer, and it's work to chase them them through scripture, commentary, conversation, and blog. Searching for treasure enriches those who find it. No one makes wealth doing nothing.

For some strange reason, this balance excites me. I like hearing I'm free from doom, and I like even more hearing there's a reason to sweat out the work of living better. Life isn't good to those who believe every snippet of doom. Neither is life good to those who neglect the work needed to live better. Finding the road between those two ditches is the trick.


MzEllen said...

Maybe I worked with Special Ed kids too long, but I think i IEPs.

You know - "Goals and Objectives"

What is your goal? "Live better." Ah, but that isn't "clear and measurable."

Say, it's "read the Bible every day." Now, like all human beings, you need grace, even for yourself.

What are the objectives? That's what makes the "goal" happen.

TLW *The Learner Will) set aside 15 minutes every day to read the Bible - 3/5 days. (or 4/7 days.)

This has worked for me for all kinds of things.

The hard part is defining "Better." For years, my "goal" has been to try something new every year. This year it's oil painting. And hiking every inch of every trail in my favorite park to hike in. And getting my motorcycle endorsement.

make sense?

Kevin Knox said...

Ah an IEP! Exactly! I love that picture.

If little, special-needs me attempts to live like Paul or (Lord forgive), Jesus, I'm going to grow completely discouraged, eventually despondent, and finally quit. My perfectionism combines brutally with the "right" objectives. Nothing good comes of it.

But if I set my individualized plan with an eye to stretching my current abilities, I can live as a person with hope and a degree of satisfaction. I spent so many years completely discouraged with myself, because I know how I ought to be. It's a joyless life. It makes sense for me to build my ILP, and set some stretching goals. I love it.

It's not allowed, though, for you to ask me whether you getting a motorcycle endorsement, "makes sense." ;-)

KC Bob said...

"Looking back across the years, living right didn't make me the righteous man of my dreams."

Good stuff Kevin!

I can hardly recognize the blogger who began writing 10 years ago as Kansas Bob. My tendency to see things in black or white terms has morphed into a softer gentler gray.

Kevin Knox said...

Thanks, Bob. :-)

salguod said...

This so resonates with me. I love the tennis quote, spot on.

A "relentless pursuit of perfection", as Lexus says, sounds noble but it's exhausting and produces not perfection, but despair. You see, we cannot hardly define perfection, let alone achieve it. It doesn't take long to understand that although we may have hit the mark, we were aiming at the wrong target.

Looking for the right answer or the right way is a fools errand. There are frequently many good choices, parsing out which is the best wastes energy and robs us of the satisfaction of making a good choice. After all, we may have missed the better one, so we cannot enjoy the one we made.

There was a study several years ago or a book that said something like this. People who obsessed over every decision were not happier for all their analysis, they were less happy. Folks who quickly chose something "good enough" were happier.

OH, and I'm so glad to see you blogging again.

Milly said...

Good stuff.

Kevin Knox said...

I hear you, Doug. I enjoyed your link, too, about intentionally seeking rejection. It seems there's a lot to life that really requires imperfection.

Kevin Knox said...

Thanks, Milly.