Mitchell Richards [Words]

Month: October, 2011

Taking Up Our Lowercase t’s.

I’m not one to break down a verse in the Bible, dissect it, break it down historically, and then present it to you in a whole new light. That’s not my game. So I often hesitate to directly use scripture when I write, in fear that I make someone more theologically based than I am shake their head in disgust. I’ve always enjoyed the simplicity of the whole thing. It is true that the Bible can be dissected, translated ever so slightly, and be broken down historically in order for us to see it in a new light, and that is really great and I really appreciate the people that do that, but at the same time the Bible is what it is and it says what it says. In other words, Jesus doesn’t speak the way Emily Dickinson writes poetry. He says what he means directly, you don’t have to read it over and over again in order to figure out what he is talking about. Then again, maybe I just don’t get poetry either. But when he says in Luke 9 to deny yourself, to take up your cross daily, and to follow Him, it is pretty clear what he is saying.

Before Jesus became trendy and people wore crosses on their necks and had them tattooed on their body regardless of their lifestyle, the cross was a symbol of torture (see also: crucifixion of Jesus) to the people of His time. When Jesus spoke these words, He knew what was going to happen to him, he knew how it was going to go down. When people were put to death in those days, they saved the cross for the worst of them. It was an endurance trial of torture, so when Jesus says (he doesn’t ask) to take up your cross, he isn’t saying put on your necklace and try to be nice to people, he is telling us to be ready for the worst day of your life. Then after that, go to bed and when you wake up get ready for a worse day.

Rinse and repeat.

I don’t remember the last time I had a good day in terms of being a Christian, I always seem to be screwing up somehow; and what is even worse is I don’t remember the last time I had a bad day for Christ either. Hell, I don’t even know what it really means to take up my cross in a literal sense in today’s society. I don’t know what it means to get dirty and tired in the name of Jesus.

I could dive into this text, make a few translation changes maybe, and figure out a happy medium for me and Jesus to coexist on, but that’s not the way Jesus wants it. He wants to exist, there is no coexist with his name in it.

In a life filled with routine and habit, I can honestly say I don’t know what it means to follow Jesus the way he has called us to. Maybe that is why I write, because I rarely write in a definitive tone but rather a curious one, a tone that is just as confused as you are in this whole process. I heard one time that true creative people are scared as hell of what they create and that the people who aren’t serious about their creations are wildly self-confident. I could say that goes for my relationship as well, and since I am scared as hell of what Jesus has in store for me than I must be on the right track.

Maybe Jesus just wants us to be nice to that person who bugs us. Maybe he means for us to begrudgingly forgive the people that wrong us. But maybe these things clear our minds and give us something to distract our spiritual lives with from the things Jesus is actually calling us to do. What does it mean to take up our cross? What does it mean to deny ourselves?

I hate writing these things because I know I don’t have the answer. All I know is Jesus is waiting on me to dig my cross up and to follow him. As a citizen of the Bible belt, I don’t know what it would look like for me to risk my life for the sake of a Kingdom I believe in. And if you asked me on a Thursday after a rough week, I’d probably say that I don’t want to know what that looks like.

Maybe the reason we always call on Jesus when we are at our lowest is because that is where we feel most natural. Maybe the reason I only pray when I need something is because it is in my DNA to do so, thus, if I always needed help then I would always need God. Maybe our lives, right here right now, are way too Nerf and soft and comfortable for us to truly understand what Jesus is talking about. Like I’ve said before, it is difficult to be a citizen of one place when your heart belongs in the Kingdom.

The second most dangerous thing we could do in this situation would be to ask God what are crosses look like, where we can find them, and ask where He is headed next.

The most dangerous thing?

To listen.

Dirty Dishes: How Grace Isn’t A Whirlwind

The other day, I showed p to work and could sense an urgent matter by the way people were moving. You can usually tell when something is out of the norm, and people busy cleaning random parts of the restaurant tipped me off. They were scrubbing the walls behind the ovens, mopping, and finding any nook and cranny to give an extra little spot of cleanliness. When you work at a restaurant, most of the workers want to know the bare minimum of what needs to be cleaned on a daily basis. Wipe down the tables, sweep the floors, mop the floors, am I good to go home now? That sort of thing. So what happens is these bare minimum things get cleaned, but the extra things normally don’t, thus the walls behind the fridge.

So when I walked in to work the other day, and everyone was cleaning all the things no one ever cleans, I asked around and found out that some “big wigs” were coming in to check everything out. I didn’t really know what that means, but I just did my business and got ready to open the restaurant.

It was kind of frustrating to watch everyone clean in such a hurry because in my mind I was thinking that this wouldn’t be such a big deal if people actually cleaned over time, you might not have to scrub down the walls behind the oven every day, but maybe once a week or so, you know? It is way more difficult to clean everything all at once, than it is to clean all the same things over time. Just because some “big wigs” are coming to inspect the place, well, the place should have already been clean. A whirlwind of trying to clean up your mess isn’t as effective as a constant cleaning schedule.

This being said, I have a tower of dirty dishes in my sink right now. They have been there long enough. Dishes are the one thing I can’t seem to conquer on my cleaning schedule it seems. I will always say I will do them tomorrow. As you can imagine, things can get a little tricky pretty quickly when you don’t do your dishes regularly.

But about once in a blue moon, I will buckle down and do those dishes. It is dumb because I end doing just about every dish I own all in one day instead of doing them over time.

And all of this cleaning leads me to my soul.

I am a very burdened person. I want to do the right thing but more often I find myself doing the opposite. My heart knows what is good and right, yet I tend to repeat the same mistakes that I always have. When I get trapped in sin and want to be free from it, I do one of those whirlwind soul cleanings where I want to change everything immediately. I want to cut myself off from everyone and focus on getting well. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this process, it is important, but slowly over time the dirty dishes start to pile up again.

And I don’t want to take care of them anymore.

Cleaning everything at once in your life is a good first step, but it is the longevity of discipline that I really suck at. It’s nice to get everything out in the open, to confess your sins to the people around you, but to continue to confess your crap to those people 2 months down the road, that is where I struggle. I want to do all the dishes at once, and then let them build up again. When you do this, yo’ll run out of dishes eventually, and spiritually speaking, you can’t eat and you can’t drink because you don’t have anything to eat or drink with. You’re too busy living with the stink of your dirty dishes to embrace the food and life God is offering.

I just watched this movie called “Everything Must Go” with Will Ferrell, I enjoyed it very much. In the movie, Will’s character is living on his front yard because his wife left him and switched the locks. Everything that he owned was out on the lawn; his recliner, his George Foreman grill, rugs, lamps, everything. In one scene, he is talking to his neighbor about all the crap people in the neighborhood are dealing with in their personal lives. At one point he says, “I’m no different than any of you, I just don’t hide inside my house.”

It doesn’t seem like it at the time, but him living outside is the healthiest thing for him. He is forced to deal with the reality of what is going on around him, and forced to make choices. He is forced to slowly and methodically reverse the chaos that got him out there to begin with.

Just like dishes. Just like cleaning. Just like grace and forgiveness.

Grace is a slow moving machine, cleaning and scrubbing everything in its path. True grace isn’t a whirlwind, true grace changes the heart of the person being touched. True grace never leaves, it doesn’t build up over time, it doesn’t clean one area and then not clean it again until someone goes looking behind the oven. Grace doesn’t demand no dirty dishes though, grace doesn’t require perfection, grace only demands that the dishes be taken care of.

Now if someone wants to help me clean my dishes…feel free. (I mean this in both ways, literally and spiritually by the way.)