Turning the corner, I steered the car into the parking lot. There, confronting me, the sign said, “Sudden Service.” I thought, “Wow! Not bad for a ‘fried in old grease, we’ll worry about the arteries later chicken joint.” Catchy slogans cannot overcome a “rust on the building, empty parking lot, dirty window” signal telling me to turn the car around. But the slogan never left me. I keep living in hope sudden service will appear…suddenly.
I am thinking today about Saul, who on the road to Damascus, suddenly, became Paul. Prevalent in my mind is his life that followed, a very thoughtful and devoted life to and in Christ. I am thinking of my own swallowed, unthinking acceptance of conformity. Like Paul, light also stopped me on my road, not so suddenly, but more, a slow, wearing down of all those swallowed social constructs, especially religion. Questioning is a not so radical path to God.
Growing up, uninitiated, naïve, lacking critical thinking skills, I accepted the “supposed to’s,” those immediate observations pre-offered, and the boundaries proffered by my elders. Thinking there was only one path to a right life, I pursued those “supposed to’s” with an unquestioned welcome. Acceptance offered safety and agreement. After all, I was a Cheatham and the expectation dissuaded me from veering.
But God is if anything beyond love … mystery. How should He come to us and give us sight but by deconstructing our edificial “supposed-to’s?” it didn’t take long to discover life does not follow a straight line, goals are not easily attained by want and “supposed to’s” are sometimes “not supposed to’s.” How else could I see God except through the eroding, awakening failures visiting me?
We Cheathams were expected to be leaders, become as independent as we were different, and behave. The contradiction played within me while God worked His mystery. I embraced the pursuit with vigor and learned to give myself to something.
Leadership is an overused word, a symbol inferring good character. It spirits within us a sense of the ideal. Implied is a purposed direction guided by good intent and a greater devotion. But direction can be misguided, intent misinformed and character – superficial. To see God, we must live failing.
Christians are called to move beyond the surface tensions daily living demands, beyond the momentary circumstance, the unthinking, reactionary, automatic, conforming responses Satan finds so pleasurable in us. To find this calling from our own deconstruction, to each belongs his own answer. My own doubts indicated my inability to understand and integral to deconstructing my “supposed to’s.” I was late to clarity.
But late only comes to those unwilling to change direction. And yes, there is much energy involved, but one liberating us from complacency. Mistakes, however long they last, deliver wisdom if listening.
Not so suddenly, I realized there are no earthly “supposed to’s,” only heavenly ones.
And then, I gave myself to God.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).