By Charlsi Lewis Lee
A couple of weeks ago I was spurred into a writing frenzy in the midst of worship. I know, I know…I should have been sitting quietly with my hands folded in my lap listening intently to the word of God proclaimed. But anyone who knows me at all also knows that’s not me. Instead, I was sitting in judgment and pondering my own issues of faith.
What I heard on that morning was a song about escaping to land far way, somewhere far off where the singer will meet Jesus and the streets will be paved with gold, or something like that. In other words, it was about escapist theology. Now, I understand that we all need to escape sometimes. We need a way to step beyond what is our current existence and move into a place that, well, isn’t so hard to take. Even those of us who have been blessed in life with all of the extras and haven’t had to wonder where the next meal is coming from or whether our children will have coats in the winter, enjoy a good escape from the constant demand of life. I get it.
We no longer live in a society where it is normal to spend an hour in the evening sitting on the porch reading a book, or dare I say it … just sitting on the porch doing nothing at all. Shoot, many of our homes don’t even have porches any more. We are so busy running our kids back forth, checking our Facebook, or watching the latest episode of Breaking Bad (which I really enjoyed by the way) that we have forgotten what it's like to sit back and take in a deep breath of calm and comfort.
Ok. I don’t want to sound all self-righteous because I am as bad as the next person in this arena. While sitting still is not at all my forte, escapism is one of my finer points. I appreciate the art of denial which allows me to live in a world I create rather than the one God created. Even so, here comes my issue with escapist theology: we are not meant to live in any world except this one. We have been put in this world to share the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ to the best of our abilities, not to run away to some beautiful island “where all the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are above average”—oh, wait … that’s Lake Wobegone.
For me, this means that my presence even at my worst, and even at the world’s worst, counts. It counts toward a growing expression of love in a world that fills up too quickly with hate.
It counts for the addict who comes to treatment and discovers someone who cares about her as a person, not as a junkie.
It counts for the alcoholic who is able to find footing because someone was available to listen and to hold his hand when the cravings seemed bigger than him.
It counts for the child who doesn’t get hugs at home, but can get one at school from a teacher who loves them just because they showed up.
It counts for the hungry family who leaves a feeding ministry with a box full of dinners ready to be set on a table.
It counts for me…because I know that someone is in this world living the good news of Jesus Christ to share it with me.
If we spend all of our time trying to escape our reality—in a hurry to get to heaven—aren’t we missing the point? I’m afraid I might miss Jesus completely if I’m always looking for him in a better place than where I am right now.