When a mile turns into a million.
(I've written two updates to the Kenyan crisis. The first is a letter from my uncle and the second is a thought that hopefully dispels some of the dangers of reading a story like that. )
My wife won't eat a cupcake unless it is fresh. She is not a diva or fancy. But she has a simple theory when it comes to deserts and such. Here is what she believes:
"If I'm going to eat something that is 500 calories, I want it to be something I really like."
A stale cupcake isn't really worth the amount of calories. If she is going to indulge, she wants to make sure she gets the most out of the indulgence. To make sure that a temporary slip in healthy eating is in fact worth it. So instead, she always eats ice cream instead of cupcakes.
That concept is one that I've unknowingly applied to temptation in my life a thousand times. When I make a mistake, when I give into some small temptation and suddenly find myself in the wrong, I want to make it worth it. The idea is that if I've already blown it, I might as well really blow it and enjoy myself. Instead of just one stale cupcake, I should eat like an entire truckload of fresh ones.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever binged on temptation? I have. When I slip on a Friday it's like all the sudden I have this free pass to just complete stay in that place for the next three days. So a little stumble quickly becomes a major fall.
As I write my book about the Prodigal Son, I can't help but think this is like running 100 miles just because you've taken one step away from God. Like adding a thousand steps to your journey away from the Lord just because you've taken three.
I don't really know how to stop that. I think part of the way is changing how I see the goal of staying next to the father. The reality is that before I die, I am going to sin again. I wish this was not the case, but my need for constant forgiveness and repentance is based on the promise of my constant missteps. With that in mind, maybe the goal of staying on the farm, in the context of the Prodigal Son story, is not to white knuckle my way into being perfect and never leaving. Maybe the goal is to make my escapes much shorter.
Maybe the goal is to not let one mile away from the Lord turn into one million. To not let an hour of temptation turn into a three day binge. Please don't misunderstand me, holiness is what I seek and righteousness is what I desire, but an inappropriate pursuit of perfection can give an unholy weight to failure. It becomes this monster of momentum that helps carry us away from God. It transforms all of our failures into this massive wall between us and God, that when we gaze back upon urges us further and further away because once we're on the other side, we might as well enjoy ourselves.
But what if we saw each failure as God sees them? As proof that a savior was necessary. As a sign that he was right to send his son for us. As an indicator that we need his love now more than ever.
I don't know where you are in your journey, but I pray that next time you step away, you won't let a mile turn into a million.
P.S. - Check out the new post on 97secondswithGod.com called "Why I started emailing God."