By Marty Norman
It’s 2010, a time for one of my favorite activities – making New Year’s resolutions – the time of year when we wipe the slate clean. In other words, we get back on the bus and begin the ride all over again.
I love wiping the slate clean. You’d think that after doing so for more than my share of years, I’d not be surprised my resolutions have such a short life span. I guess the New Year just comes around too often. Every time I look up it’s time to re-evaluate and take stock again. Does this bus never arrive at graduation?
The answer, on this side of heaven, is no, the bus will never arrive. But I have choices. When I get off the bus I can pull myself up by the bootstraps and get back on by getting right with God. He has made this clear from the beginning. Because of Adam and Eve and their fall in the garden, we will always be involved in sin. None of us are strangers to that tree or the forbidden fruit. If it’s not one apple it’s another. Each year is just a different one. And it looks so good – bright, red, and shiny. With such short memories we can’t help but whisper, “Surely one bite won’t hurt.”
Wrong. It’s that one bite that takes us down the wrong path. Once sin gets a foothold, we are on a detour to nowhere. The door opens wider with each successive bite, until we are knee deep in old behavior.
Susan Howatch wrote a series of books called the “Starbridge Series”. Six books, they are set in the Church of England from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. I discovered them quite by accident but once hooked I couldn’t put them down. I am a historical fiction nut, so these are right up my alley. They are one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen concerning the progression of sin. Filled with fictional, human Adams and Eves, they illustrate how just one bite of the apple opens the door. The next thing we know we are knee deep in the barrel. Sin is full blown, and we are barreling down the highway past the schoolhouse into parts unknown.
The question is how bad can it be? Surely all the trouble we could get into we’ve already done. So what does the apple look like? Well God has a great way of busing us around that tree again and again. If the issue is greed, it will manifest in different ways but greed is greed. If the issue is sloth, the same is true. If anger, instead of being mad at the kids, we are mad at the salesclerk. We keep going around that same mountain until we get it right. It’s just disguised in sheep’s clothing, shiny baubles, and unintended consequences.
I was thinking about unintended consequences the other day, as I reflected on the pending Healthcare bill and what it may mean to seniors. I thought about how good intentions often have unintended consequences.
Dynamite came to mind. Known as “black powder” for 1000 years, it was used in the 17th century for mining purposes. With the discovery of glycerin it was produced to create massive explosions. I assume no one anticipated that a bomb could be invented to be used for mass destruction. Surely they were just excited about the potential for digging holes faster. But unintended consequences have a way of getting away from us. Without God, man’s propensity for destruction will rise to the top.
That brings us to Judas. I wonder what he was thinking when he turned Jesus over to the authorities for a few pieces of silver. I suspect this was not his first infraction. Probably he “tweeked” the till more than once so that he could rationalize the betrayal of his friend and mentor – kind of like “tweeking” the income tax or not reporting cash income. Did he not think of the unintended consequences? Could he not anticipate where this was headed?
At least I’ve not betrayed Jesus. Or have I? When I’m unkind to the lady at the end of a thirty minute wait menu, when I’m impatient at a cash register because a store is understaffed, when I’m too busy with my own “to do” list that I don’t notice someone in pain and offer a helping hand, am I not really betraying Jesus? Which is worse – me or Judas?
So this year let’s take a look at resolutions through a spiritual lens. Rather than deciding to lose ten pounds or redecorate the living room, let’s evaluate the Ten Commandments or the seven deadly sins and apply them to ourselves to see where we might have fallen short. I think we may be surprised. What we thought was one bite of the apple may have turned into a whole orchard. And this bus has only so many more turns before it gets stuck in a rut.
With the beginning of a new year at hand, let’s avoid detours by wiping the slate clean with the forgiveness of Jesus and jump on God’s bus. He knows the way, and his bus is definitely heading in the right direction!