One million dollars! One million dollars and I would have "made it!" I held that number out in my head for a long time. Of course, that was back when a million dollars was big money.
I remember driving my car all the way down from Omaha, Nebraska to Dallas, Texas and arriving at night. I was in my early twenties, making good money and felt like I was on my way to that golden million-dollar dream. The skyline had a tall building with a dandelion shaped top sphere. The sphere had lights all around the very edges so that in the dark night sky there were hundreds of bright dandelion seed ends made of lights that shown across the city. Another building had bright green lights that went up 40 stories, crisscrossing along the outside stories to the top. Another building had bright white pyramid lights at the very top of the 50 stories shooting lights into the sky as if it were calling on Batman. U2's song ”The Streets Have No Name" blared on my stereo in the car. I called my parents on the cell in the car, (this was a HUGE deal back then), and they asked me how things were and I told them, "The streets are paved with gold and the air stinks with opportunity!"
One million dollars meant safety. It meant status. It meant charity. I could even try that thing I'd heard about called tithing (Neh 12:44, 2 Chron 3:15). I’d start slow, of course, maybe 2%, work my way up. I was on my way and I had a plan. I just needed to get to my brass ring and then I could live my life in a new way.
That same lie is told in gyms, cubicles, coffee shops and churches- “When I get this done, then I'll start to do that."
My “when/then”was money. Something happens about lies like this…they're creepers. If your lie is a when/then, the lie morphs. If it is about time, you start to have less and need more. This means that there is rarely enough to meet the promise you have made to yourself and to Jesus. I'll make a fast list to see if you have made any of these lies to yourself like I have:
• When I have more money
• When I have more time
• Feel better
• Kids are... (Lots here- potty trained, finished with any point in school, out of the house, etc.)
• Mom and Dad are less needy
• My relationship with my spouse is better
• I feel better (finish surgery, heal, recover, etc.)
Now if you feel I'm buying you 1st class seats on the GUILT TRIP TRAIN, I want you to put on the brakes. This is not about that. Jesus wants your heart and he's not confused about your circumstances (Acts 13:22).Jesus knows everything about us. In Dallas, He knew that He was not first in my life. I had pushed Him away. I had lied to Him and said He'd get a double-measure when I got what I wanted, first. It was "When I get what I think I must have, then you will get what I have left to give" (Matthew 19:22).
Then is Now. How do you give to Jesus? Is it everyday that you give what is His?
Bad news is that I'm still lying to myself - I rush through my scripture time and my prayer time with Him. I don't think about Him at all through the day. I treat him like an ATM when I need things. I miss the whispers of His great counsel through the Holy Spirit because my mind is on me and not Him. Each day, however, I am praying for forgiveness, His love to guide me and to start over for when to be now. I don't think that this excuse making stops. It's all a part of our greatest sin, pride. Well, we can't just wallow in the muck of cyclical sin. There is a better path that He gave to us that will lead us closer to Him and to shallower muck.
All of this is really easily said. However, I am not a preacher's kid, a monk, or some sort of arm waving, calling out, weeping, Christian. I actually want to be. I want to be so unabashed in my celebration of faith and salvation that I live my faith without restraint. I’m not there yet. The Holy Spirit is working on it, even when I am not praying for it. God deserves it. He deserves to be celebrated and worshipped unabashedly (2 Sam 6:14-16). I'm just not quite there yet. Why? Maybe it is because I think about the things in my life and my family. I try not to when I am at church, or in my small group, or praying by myself, but it creeps in. I need more time, I have kids and my parents need more of my time as they age. My brain goes there and I get distracted. Does this happen to you? I feel like I do not have an attention span for God who is eternal, but I do for all of the things that are right in front of me that have to be taken care of. The "task-trap," if you will. I can have an honest conversation, focused and in complete connection with God for about 90 seconds. Once, I had a conversation of absolute gratitude and sharing with God that lasted thirty minutes, a personal best. Even that one happened when I was power-washing the driveway.
How do you hit the "now" button? You can't cheat- you may already be doing the inventory in your head of all of the things that you are doing that qualifies you as putting God first and means you have crossed some line that defies the "when/then" challenge. [ES4] [TS5] If you are already putting God first in your life, send me an email on how you did it and in what ways you make it work. I am not judging you; I need to learn from you. I don't have this figured out and if you have any help to give me, I will take it! If you are like me, the list of what I am doing does not mean that I have not stopped my "half-truth" of when/then. Do not give up. This is where your relationship with God is found. This is the good stuff. Getting to the “now” of a closer relationship with God.
I thought that it was going to be a big thing to jump the fence of when to then being now. It turns out it is a small speed bump. Don’t worry about building a church, start by lifting a brick. Fixing homelessness and hunger starts with a sandwich and a 10-minute side-by-side conversation. Developing a prayerful heart can be as easy as a sixty second appointment with God three times a day to be peaceful and talking to God. This one is easy; you can set it up on your phone or computer to remind you. Love one more person, possibly someone you do not know closely and might not be a Christ-follower, and love him or her well. Hear their story, minister to their wounds, take care of their pain, be their friend. Be Christ's love on earth and pay close attention to what the Holy Spirit tells you. By letting the now be now and the prayers be today, God will lead you to the next step. By being open and prayerful while listening you can start being intentional now.
When - the threshold of becoming the follower of Jesus Christ and moving towards a more intimate and personal relationship with Him.
Then - the crossing of that self-defined threshold so that you are prepared, as defined by you, to begin your trip to a more intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now - the elimination of any threshold that keeps you from an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, (author's note: do it immediately).
Half-truths get in the way get in the way of Jesus' simple yet elegant words, "Follow me" (John 12:26). When I look at my life, I realize I stack the wall of excuses that keeps me from taking steps forward. I have to start with the small steps and keep making them. Jesus laid the path. Take the first step and love one more person than you love now. The Lord will guide you on the path if you can just stop fighting Him.