Posts Tagged ‘battle

07
Sep
20

Picking Your Battles

“You have to pick your battles.”

Is there anyone who hasn’t heard this sage advice?

Parents of young children have learned and lived the wisdom of this phrase. 

Most married couples I know have it tattooed on the inside of their eyelids. 

And wonder of wonders, it turns out that this advice is highly relevant to 68-year-old retirees, too!

By now you know the drill; there you are… going about your day, minding your own business when suddenly… IT happens. Something as trivial as the location of the salt-and-pepper shakers – that you know are always on that shelf over THERE – has been altered. 

You begin calmly trying out alternative solutions… without success. The frustration and tension begin to build. And then suddenly, before you can say, “Global pandemic,” this minor inconvenience has blown up to epic dimensions, usurping The Apocalypse as the single biggest threat to human existence.

Frustrations get expressed. Emotions get vented. Voices – sometimes – get raised. And somewhere in the middle of the fray, that advice to, “… pick your battles,” echoes in your head.

Has anything like that ever happened to you? Clearly it has happened to me. And embarrassed as I am to admit it, most of the time I remember this great advice only AFTER picking the absolutely wrongest battle possible. 

Not surprisingly at all, Jesus never had this problem. Every one of the battles we see him fighting were perfectly picked. And the battles he avoided were likewise perfectly avoided. 

In Luke 18:15-17, Jesus wisely avoids the argument about whether children should be pestering him and taking up his valuable time. He told his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:16, NRSV). 

In the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus skillfully sidesteps the argument about the proper punishment for the woman caught in adultery. He tells her sanctimonious antagonists, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, NRSV). 

But for anyone who might be under the impression that Jesus was some kind of milquetoast peacenik, open up your Bible and read the withering tongue-lashing he gives the religious leaders in Matthew 23:13-29, including this devastating truth-bomb: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.” (Matthew 23:27, NRSV). 

And let’s not forget the scene in the courtyard of the Jerusalem Temple where we see Our Hero throwing over the tables of the moneychangers, driving out their sacrificial animals, and hurling every insult under the sun at them. 

Some battles – as Jesus well knew – were worth fighting. I suspect that for him, these were the battles that had a bearing on the eternal condition of people’s souls. 

Other battles – if the stakes were anything short of eternal – really weren’t worth the energy it took to fight them. 

For me personally, it is not difficult at all to apply the “WORTH FIGHTING” and the “NOT WORTH FIGHTING” label to my own battles…

… that is, after they’ve been fought.

The real challenge is to know the difference BEFORE fighting them.

Abundant blessings;

27
Mar
20

The Invisible Enemy

invisible-man-2020-poster“The Invisible Enemy” is a popular way of describing the foe we are battling during this current pandemic.

It’s true. The virus that causes the deadly COVID-19 disease cannot be seen by the naked eye. It travels, unseen, from person to person via door handles, bannisters, faucet handles, sneezes and coughs, handshakes, nose pickings, and plain old walking down the street and minding your own business.

The virus can weasel its microscopic way into your system during an otherwise innocent trip to Home Depot…

… and you wouldn’t even know it for another 14 days.

To my highly un-medically trained brain, the idea of fighting an invisible enemy seems humanly impossible. It reminds me of the trailers I’ve seen for the current version of the movie, The Invisible Man. (Ironic that this movie is appearing at this particular moment in history, isn’t it?)

The stupid thing can hit you from over HERE, and then when you turn and swing your fist in that direction, it slyly ducks and runs over THERE, emitting an evil chuckle.

How in the world do even the smartest, most technically savvy experts do battle with an enemy like THAT?

But then, just as I was about to throw my hands into the air and wail, “WOE IS ME! ALL IS LOST!” I stopped and remembered something. I remembered that we ALL have experience battling invisible enemies.

That’s right. You. Me. Uncle Steve. Your next door neighbor. Your favorite barista. The president. The neighborhood handyman.

ALL of us have waged war – at one time or another – with an enemy we could not see.

Some of us, for example, have battled SELF DOUBT. It lurked there, invisibly plotting our downfall, until the moment came when we had a chance to stand up and make a difference. And then it jumped out of the shadows and ATTACKED… mocking us for daring to think we might have measured up to the moment.

Others of us have contended with ghosts from our PAST… events and people long dead, yet somehow invisibly alive in our imaginations. We think we successfully turned our backs on them and buried them… until that triggering event that caused them to jump out from behind that open door and remind us of something dark and forgettable.

There is also the invisible enemy of ADDICTION… in whatever form that might take. Addictions are those insidious, unseen compulsions that are even harder to spot than a coronavirus yet twice as deadly. Addictions can lull us into complacency, making us believe we have defeated them by the sheer power of our iron wills… only to see them re-emerge, crowbar in hand, from the cellar, even more dangerous than before.

It may not make them any easier to fight, but it is somehow good to be reminded that invisible enemies are nothing new… to any of us. The one we are up against now will require a whole new set of weapons and a kind of calm determination that we might not quite believe we have access to.

But no matter if it is the deadly COVID-19, or the invisible enemies of self-doubt, our pasts, addiction, or anything else you can name, it is good to know who fights with us and FOR us.

Jesus single-handedly took on the most insidious invisible enemy in history and made it cry, “UNCLE!” With unparalleled love, and grace, and his unique, vibrant connection with God he destroyed humanity’s estrangement from God (a.k.a., SIN), once and for all.

It is a victory we can all celebrate. It is a victory that should encourage all of us in the current battle.

As he said, just before the scene of the final fight on Calvary: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NRSV).

AMEN! And Praise God!




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