"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Are You Living as a Shortcut Christian?

By Micky Wolf

In all honesty, how would you answer the aforementioned question? Personally? Some days seem to be all about quicker and faster, but whether we squirm a bit at the thought or not, it is my sense we at least need to consider the question, particularly in light of the fact it seems everything and everyone is busier and moving faster than ever.

Practically speaking…

There is a time and place for a shortcut. We notice this particularly with the array of electronic devices we carry around or that sit on the desk in front of us. My computer screen, for example, is an illustration of this principal. By double-clicking on any one of several icons, I am immediately transported to the document or software program I need at that particular moment. 

Various aspects of our life—home, work, recreation—are rife with shortcuts. Remote controls make changing television channels as simple as tapping a small button. Counter top coffee makers and bread machines allow us to assemble ingredients and anticipate the tasty finished product while we engage in other activities. And the list goes on and on.

There’s no doubt we live in an age of technological advances and devices that promise an ever increasing measure of quick—read faster—ways to accomplish the array of tasks that fill an average day. 

Nevertheless, there is one important area where the shortcut mentality does not serve us so well.

Shortcuts and relationships…

Some of our interactions with others involve brief moments in time: exchanging pleasantries with the person ringing up a purchase; relaying information about an ache or pain to the doctor; shaking hands with a fellow pew sitter on Sunday morning. However, simply because an encounter may be of shorter duration does not mean a shortcut is in order—quality of interaction between people should be our priority.

On the other hand, there are the more intimate relationships involving spouse, children, or close friends. These develop over years and most, hopefully, continue to deepen and evolve over lifetimes. Therein lays an important key to the quality or richness of the relationship. Time. 

In the Divine context…

Many Christians speak of “having a relationship” with Jesus. Really? What does it mean, especially to the person less familiar with this kind of religious lingo? Furthermore, what if my idea of being in relationship—with anyone, let alone Jesus—is based primarily on my experiences, past and present? And what if that template, so to speak, is comprised of a lot of pain, hurt, or disappointment?   

Scripture provides many insights regarding the way Jesus lived, served, and loved others. And yet, you would be hard-pressed to find any evidence he took shortcuts of any kind. Some of the people he met were joyful and peace-filled while others carried deep wounds and great sorrow. He clearly understood the importance of taking time to be fully attentive to the thoughts and feelings of each unique person. It didn’t matter whether it was in an encounter lasting a few minutes or for a few years; the gift of time was integral to the quality of the experience for all who were involved.

Making the conscious decision to follow Jesus’ example is not only realistic for us, but a choice sorely needed in this moment, in this day:

Can’t set aside twenty minutes for morning prayer? How about four, five minute blocks of laser-focused prayerfulness spread throughout the day? 

Have difficulty seeing ‘good’ in the person next to you? Smile, or offer a heartfelt greeting or word of encouragement.

Wondering if God is aware of your present challenge? Ask him directly, describing exactly what you are thinking and sharing specifically how you are feeling.

Need a concrete expression from your spouse that you are treasured and valued? Yes, be the first one to extend a gesture of your love and appreciation to them.

Drained of energy or enthusiasm to complete a task? Review your schedule and choose to separate the love-work from the busy-work and drop the latter.

Noticing a sense of disconnect from the people and activities that nourish your soul and spirit? Consider, or reconsider, the gifts you have been given which you can share with others. In the process, don’t forget or overlook the value of spontaneous recreation or play. 

It would be easy in this day and age to reason and rationalize that all our modern conveniences are responsible for dehumanizing the culture and preventing us from living more fully-engaged, meaningful lives as Christ-followers. But, by the same token, it’s hard to believe Jesus and the people who walked with him were not faced with more than enough tasks and responsibilities of their own which could have justified taking the quick and easy way in loving and serving others. 

While shortcuts may be appealing—even helpful time savers—relying on them for developing and maintaining people-relationships is often a prescription for disaster. And that most certainly includes our relationship with Jesus. Better to leave the shortcuts for the smart phone, watching TV, or brewing coffee. 

Do I tend to look for the shortcuts in daily life? Why?

How do I feel about time? Comfortable? Frustrated?

Could my relationships with others benefit from more time?

How do I feel about spending more time with God?

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