Sunday, February 14, 2010

Of Redemption and Results

OK. Here's a post that will be near and dear and that I can't help but struggle with, even when I believe it's true. Our culture (species?) is obsessed with results. Investments, abdominal muscles, careers, relationships, sporting events, you name it. Look at every self help book you can find, or those little face book advertisements you see every day (and the real process to get there):
"How to make 200k a year from home" (Do 200k's worth of work a year)
"How to get ripped in 30 days" (Eat unbelievably well and work out like a freak)
"One secret that will give you a six pack" (See above and add in genetic gifting)
"How to guarantee 18% on your investment portfolio" (We already tried this. Welcome to the great recession)
Plus a billion others.

I understand it, really I do. People want to know what they are going to get out of something before they get into it... but there aren't many out there who really see that as a problem. We live in a results driven culture, and most people reading this are saying "yeah... so?" And to you I offer up this - how often do life's results really mirror life's journeys? And Christians, further, does heavenly living ever result in heaven on earth? Biblically... not so much (deaths of the disciples, anyone?)... why do we feel like it should now?

Some perfect examples of all this:
I have a masters in finance. I love the stock market. I like telling myself that I "can beat the market" - hint, so does everyone else who invests. (Shocking) Reality is this. The average mutual fund beats the market (everyone's average) by 1.4% (and charges an average yearly fee of 1.7%). Someone who runs a mutual fund is at the pinnacle of financial perfection. He's got education. He's got experience. He's got access to the finest mathematical minds and technological systems in the nation. And he'll beat a monkey with 20 darts, a wall, and every stock on an even sized piece of paper by 1.4%... before he takes his fees (the monkey won't charge). Is it a little hard for me to believe I can't beat the average? Yeah. But that said... smarter guys than me don't... and yet...

Another example:
Poker. I play it. I love it. I hate it. Nothing hurts worse than having a guy statistically dominated and then... boom, he catches a card to put you down. As he takes your money with that smug smile, you know a few things. 1) On average, if he continues to play like that, you'll take his money 2) This time, he took yours 3) When he rubs it in your face and you say "you got the result you wanted, but you took the wrong process" he'll never get it. Don't be upset though... on average, you'll take his money - good results don't justify bad process.

We'll get into that one.

"It's all about the journey, not the destination, for each push isn't a means to an end, but a unique event within itself"

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. Skateboarder. Rich and famous (oddly enough). Tatted up. When asked why skateboarding matters so much to him, this is his answer. He gets it. I'm sure in front of an ESPN camera crew that comes off a little different (new agey and slightly crazed) than in print, but I vote keeper.

How many times in life are we victims? Why me God? What did I do to deserve this? Why is this happening? Why are you so cruel? We look at what we view as results through our own selfish lenses and judge what's happening to us based on that.
"Well when God closes one door, he opens another" - Yeah, but what if it's not one you'd prefer to go through? What if it's the door where you get stoned to death? What if it's the door where you cope with the loss of a loved one? What if it's the door where you go unemployed and hungry? When you say that, is that the door you're thinking about, or are you thinking about the door that He is (surely) destined to open to lead you to fields of earthly prosperity and abundance? Do you judge the Master by the door, or the door by the Master? The most painful stories imaginable are the most potent testimonies of who and why God is.

Christianity has no place for those of us who judge by results. Christianity destines you for pain, suffering, and humiliation. And through all that, it destines you for redemption. Not the kind of redemption we see when a mutual fund loses 20% one year and makes 30% the next. The kind where you are crushed. Over and over. Until all that is left is joy and complete faith and comfort in a God who saves. What more could I ever want than that? This earth we live in is not about results. It's about process. It's about stripping away everything that you think you are, and finding that without all that garbage, you're whole, free, redeemed. For that, forget your results. Put me through the fire.

Do we as Christians get this? Do I get this? When we look at Jesus, do we remember he died on a cross? Yeah. So? Thousands of people died on a cross. Or do we remember that he was raised from the dead? Yeah. So? A couple people were raised from the dead and they didn't make one lick of difference in my eternal being. Or do we remember a process - the process of an innocent man dying for our redemption? Results based faith will leave you with a weak, little God and a weak, little faith. Give. Fight. Stand. Obey. Feel. Breathe. Love. Be real. Fight through the process of redemption. And eventually, whether rich or poor, whole or broken, pure or scarred, you'll find God. And it will all be worth it.

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