Maybe We’re Responsible for Too Much

Figuring out what matters matter

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Obligations

I’m on the board for my local homeowners’ association (HOA).  It’s not at the top of my list when it comes to ways in which I identify but I’m not ashamed of it either.  It just is what it is.  I joined because Joe, the board president, is my neighbor.  About a year ago he came to my house and asked if I’d be willing to fill a seat.  When I asked him what the role required, he said it basically meant checking my email periodically and voting on some decisions, to which I agreed.

Joe does the vast majority of the work that needs to be done in order to fulfill the HOA’s commitment to homeowners to ensure an environment that is both desirable to live in and desirable to own an asset within.  That work includes covenant enforcement, community communication, and accounting/bookkeeping.

I asked Joe to come by today because I wanted a better understanding of what’s required of the HOA.  I wanted to to know what would need to be done if Joe got hit by a bus, and more so, I wanted to alleviate some of the pressure on Joe’s shoulders, despite the limited room I have in my life to take on new things.

Joe was kind enough to explain to me how we do our accounting; how we receive payments, pay vendors, reconcile accounts, assess late fees, maintain receipts, etc.  There were certainly moments when my eyes glazed over and my mind wandered to less demanding places, but for the most part I kept with him.  I’ve worked in accounting in the past and used personal budgeting software for most of my adult life, so I felt I had an advantage, though I can definitely sympathize with those would say they simply zone out completely when reviewing things like cash flow reports or an income/expense review.

My takeaway: there’s more to it than I thought.  I assume most homeowners are similar to myself in that they pay their monthly dues and leave it at that.  We assume it’s not that complicated.  You, oh evil HOA, take my money, leave me alone, and shovel the sidewalks.  Make sure the community grass gets mowed and send me a letter that I’ll burn when I get lazy and don’t pull in my trash cans.

The truth is that there’s a quite a bit that goes on behind the scenes in order to make the ship run smoothly.  Suffice to say though that Joe’s volunteer service to our community is drastically underappreciated.

Stepping Back a Few Steps

This got me thinking,  not about expressing appreciation for Joe, though I should think about that, but rather about responsibilities, and how many responsibilities the typical full-time working, tax-paying, Facebook-updating American man or woman tries to maintain on a daily basis.

I don’t have a very complex life, I think.  My friend, Matt, has a lot of responsibilities.  He has a wife, a full-time job, three kids, church-type responsibilities, community responsibilities, extended family responsibilities, and probably some other things going on while I, by comparison, have two dogs and a lawn I neglect.  And a broken marriage.

Like Matt and many American men though, I also have a home, bills, an aging body, complicated relationships, desires, dreams, a faith, friends, family, bills, dirty floors, a cluttered garage, neighbors, unread books, social media accounts, a blog, unfinished projects, appointments, trash cans, a high-mileage vehicle, bills, an unchanged air filter, an empty fridge, a seat at church, laundry, dirty dishes, unwritten books, ungiven gifts, unmade money, unassigned time, an ever-dying phone, unused potential, an underused gym membership, and overused XBox Live subscription, undeveloped political opinions, unadopted children, unprayed prayers, unused vitamins, unstretched muscles, bills, and a seemingly ever-increasing list of other societal demands and expectations that I sometimes–no, oftentimes–choose to ignore rather than wrangle.  Because it’s a lot, and I’m tired.  Or at least that’s what I say to justify my choice to check out.

I don’t care about a lot of this stuff.  I mean, I know I should care, and I do, sort of.  I care about my Mom and Dad, and my salvation, and the salvation of those I love, and I want my desires to be God’s desires.  I want to read my Bible, and I want to have good conversations with good friends over good drinks and good food.  I want to be financially stable, and I want to be a responsible man.  But sometimes–like when I’m looking at what it means to be a responsible member of my HOA board–I can’t help but wonder; does this matter?

In the example of the HOA, what we (and by we I mean, Joe) basically do is work to make sure Jim Bob doesn’t park his truck on his lawn, and Betty Boo doesn’t paint her house pink, because we promised the other owners we’d hold the line against owners who might be temped to act a fool.  Full disclosure: my lawn needs mowing.

But what if we didn’t?  This is a question I ask often, and I think it’s a good one to not only ask, but play out.  What if we didn’t do what the HOA does?  What if I don’t read my Bible?  What if I don’t go to counseling?  What if I don’t walk the dogs, pay the bills, go to work and spend time with friends?

Well then there would be consequences.  Choices often render changes, and while I could judge those consequences as good or bad based on society’s expectations, the fact is that I don’t know the entirety of the story, which makes it hard to say what was for the better and what was for the worse.

For example, I made bad choices that led to the deterioration of my marriage, but in the time since she left I’ve made–by God’s grace–some of the most important growth in an area of my life where I’ve needed it for a long time, and that is good.  Does that make my bad choices good?  I don’t think so.  But it does humble the judge in me.

My point

Maybe we’re responsible for too much, and maybe all those responsibilities sometimes distract us from what matters.  I would suggest that eternal salvation matters most, because if it is true, nothing matters more, but that is not to say that date nights and time with kids and time in school and mowing your lawn isn’t also important.  You don’t get to be a shitty husband because you’re such a great guy at church.  But keeping things in their proper place is important so as not to become too anxious about temporary situations.

My encouragement to you and to myself is that we would begin and/or continue to take time to step back and take stock of what matters, lest we get wrapped into the meaningless minutia.

If You’re Not Making Disciples Locally, Why Would You Globally?

“Aviation does not create transformation.”
David Platt

 

I just finished watching David Platt’s Q&A session via Twitter (available here) about the direction of the International Mission Board (IMB), in which he noted that if you’re not making disciples where you already live, work and recreate, it’s not likely that you’ll begin making disciples once you arrive somewhere overseas.

This needs to be said, maybe to others, but certainly to me.  I have a newly developed passion for the Great Commission, largely because of what I hear Jesus Christ saying through the intense teachings & writings of David Platt, but I’m conflicted because I feel like there’s an epic story waiting to be written, if only I could break away from my mediocre life.

And while there might be some truth to that, the unfortunate way in which I typically express that frustration is toward my wife.  I sometimes, unintentionally, find myself thinking of our relationship as an obstacle to my ability to learn new languages, boldly travel to dangerous places, and powerfully share the gospel where few others would dare.  Added to our relationship, now we also have a newborn daughter whose smile I could not love more and whose laugh absolutely intoxicates me.

The simple truth is this:  I use my family, and especially my marriage, as an excuse not to make disciples, either within my family or outside of our home.  I complain about having to juggle so many responsibilities when I’m really not responsible for much more than my family.  I’m regularly stressed out, but not because I have much to be stressed about.  I’m just high-strung.  And I probably wouldn’t be making a ton of disciples in the Middle East if I were there right now, because I’d probably find other excuses to get by on.

To be clear, I do not believe that discipleship ought be confined to my family.  They are, to me, certainly of higher priority than the world, but my ability to influence others for the the sake of Christ should not be confined to my home.   I can affect my neighbors, my local church, guys at the gym, and so on.  I can figure out a way to engage with those younger guys at Sonic that I chose to ignore earlier tonight (they just seemed annoying), and I can operate as one who was sent here, rather than as one who is restrained here.

Lord:
I’m sorry I’ve complained so much.  Please remind me that I am sent here.  That I am on mission, within my family, with the people I interact with at work, and on my “off” days.  Please help me see through my own BS, that I might know the satisfaction available to me in allowing your desires to be my desires.

It is done.

They May Never Ask Where the Hope Comes From

I once worked with an older woman who always came to work smiling. She was always cheerful, almost to the point of annoying, but thankfully just shy.

I personally appreciated her attitude, mostly because I was a manager and I felt a level of responsible for the morale of our work environment.  That said, it never occurred to me that I might ask her why she was the way she was, or what motivated her joyful disposition.  I admired that aspect of her, but that’s it.  At best, I may have envied her, but that’s where it ended.

Maybe that says more about me than I’d like it to, but even now, I’m pretty content not knowing why she was as she was.  I suppose I assume now, as I did then, that she was a Christian.  But she may as well have been Mormon or into stones and healing energies or anything else.  Maybe her attitude was a byproduct of a great self-help book.  Maybe that’s how her mom was.  Maybe that’s how her mom was not.  Whatever the case, I never asked, and I’ll probably never seek her out in order to ask.

And here’s the thing:  I don’t think you would, either.

Hoping for an ask

1 Peter 3:15 encourages Christian disciples to “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”  And so we should.  But having an answer prepared doesn’t mean it ought only be offered upon request.  Jesus often took the initiative.

Consider:  If you are a Christian, and you sincerely believe that we have been saved from an eternal abyss that we deserve, and have instead been provided a means to eternal glory in community with the Creator of the universe, His angels and all the rest, how does it make any sense that we would only share this with those who are lucky enough to ask why we smile so much?

I realize no one wants to be the infamous “bible thumper” who scares more passersby away from the gospel than leads to it, but there’s got to be other ways to initiate the conversation.  Because while pouring soup and moving furniture is thoughtful, these things don’t set anyone free from eternal separation from God.  Truth sets us free.  Christ sets us free.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Rom 10:14-15)

For Christ’s sake–for their sake, preach!