“So how was your week?”
Dave coached three away games and had an evening meeting.
Em and Kelly’s junior high team had five games.
Em had a choir concert.
Judy and I had three dress rehearsals and two performances of the international student production.
And on Wednesday, Patrick broke his arm!
So–how was your week?”
I had that conversation several times this past weekend, and it made me think about the “lists” we make. I would call the above list a “suburban mom” list. There’s a little bit of an undercurrent of, “So how busy are you—in comparison with me?”
That’s not the only kind of list we make. Our lists change depending on the people we’re with. It’s a little bit like small kids talking about their dads: “My dad can run faster than a car.” “Well, my dad can run faster than a rocket!”
We can have academic lists, job lists, travel lists, sports lists—even spiritual lists.
I’ve certainly been guilty of using a list to make myself seem higher than the person I’m talking to—or at least to feel myself equal to that person.
What a nasty thing to do.
What a dangerous thing to do.
These lists separate us from other people. They deceive us into thinking that we have more differences between us than commonalities. They make us forget that we are all fellow creations, that we are all sinners, that we are all loved by God. We are all so much lower than the God who created us that our individual differences count for nothing. After all, a flea with an impressive list of accomplishments is still, well—just a flea!
And that brings me to the second dangerous thing about these lists: they separate us from God. Aren’t all of these lists ultimately ways to identify ourselves as worthwhile? Don’t we use them to convince others—and often ourselves—that we have purpose and value?
Purpose and value apart from simply being a creation of God. From simply being a flea, if you’ll pardon the extended metaphor. A flea among fleas, but each one uniquely created.
Paul had lists, too. In the context of church-planting, his were pretty impressive. In Philippians 3, he talked about his credentials as a Jew of Jews: circumcised on the 8th day; full-blooded Israelite; tribe of Benjamin; a Pharisee; strictly obedient to Jewish law—without fault! And zealous to boot! In II Corinthians he feels he must make a list simply to point out the Corinthians’ wrong way of thinking. You want to judge me the way the world does? he asks. Well, my list is better: beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, hungry, thirsty, cold, naked…
But Paul says this about his list-making: In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool (2 Cor. 11:17). I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him (Phil. 3:7-9a).
That’s the choice we face: we can hold onto our lists—the things that, according to the world, give us value—or let them all go and gain Christ!
When we gain Christ, we no longer have to carry around our value-less lists. Like Paul, we have other things to boast about it: (For the Lord) “said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
For when we are weak, then we are strong! Because HE is strong in us.
What a difference it would make if we boasted in these kinds of lists! When we share our weaknesses and how God meets them, it unifies us; it reveals common ground; it encourages and gives hope to others. It creates real, authentic, ultimately beautiful relationships.
Let’s start making a different kind of list!