|Ethie Castle, Scotland (colour enhanced)|
Before I judge her too harshly for lacking common sense, I must remind myself that I am very much an "in the moment" person and don't always think things through before embarking on a course of action. I can get caught up in the excitement of something as simple as going out with a friend and be halfway out the door before I realise that I don't have money in my wallet and I should probably bring a jacket because it is cold outside! The consequences of being under-dressed are nowhere near that of a life or death situation like climbing a mountain, but the attitude is much the same.
This attitude is one that we all exhibit every time we artificially inflate the value of a certain milestone without considering the hard work that must follow (and many times precede) it. For example, though most people consider getting married to be a major achievement in their life, some give very little thought to what happens in the days and months and years and decades after the ceremony. They might spend thousands of dollars and countless hours preparing for a single day of celebration and very little time cultivating the interpersonal skills and generous humility necessary for a life lived together with another human being. Some want to land that dream job or earn a graduate degree or buy that perfect house. But if these milestones are seen as ultimate goals instead of stepping stones that are part of a much larger journey, we can find ourselves in disastrous predicaments. This "happy ending" delusion can cause us to neglect vital preparations for the future because we get so focused on one splashy event. (I am referring here to the artificial happy ending that many fiction stories and movies close with where the guy finally gets the girl or the girl marries the guy and we are left to conclude that this is the pinnacle of achievement and nothing of much consequence happens after that.)
Jesus talks about the danger of substituting momentary excitement for proper preparation. He cautions those who would follow him from making a hasty decision without counting the cost of finishing what they started (Luke 14:25-32) and he offers this proverb: "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9: 62). He also chides those foolish young women who neglected to take extra lamp oil with them while waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. The assessment might seem a bit harsh, but their lack of preparation caused them to miss the whole celebration (Matt. 25). Some situations where we jump in ill-prepared have weighty consequences, especially when others are involved.
For the past few days I have been asking myself questions about how well I am preparing myself for what lies ahead along the path of following Jesus. Do I practice love and generosity every day? Am I quick to turn around when I make a wrong turn? Do I listen well to the advice of wise counsellors? Am I cultivating stability and peace to help me stay on track? Am I building up stamina and grace for long-term commitments? Am I increasing my flexibility so that I react appropriately and lovingly to unexpected situations? Am I making sacrifice and worship familiar habits so that I feel at home in humility? With God's grace, I am trying, yes.