Oh, the things I should do…

· Ethics,Work

My previous post focused on the idea of giving up something for Lent as representative of giving up one’s whole life. Its expressed in that well-known tongue twister of a passage in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me. For I know that the good does not dwell within me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do the good lies close at hand, but not the ability. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:14–20)

But today, I don’t want to address the sinful or evil things I do that I do not want to do. Instead, I want to address the good things I do not do that I do not want to do.

Why do I refrain from doing good when I know it will help someone? I’m not big on Friends, but I quote this line often – possibly because I deeply relate to it!

I just don’t want to.

Now, I don’t admit to that out loud. I just cover up my lack of desire to do certain good things with an excuse. One excuse I like using is that I’m just not the right person for the job.

For instance, when it comes to church volunteering, I try to avoid working with young people. I love my kids, but I am not built for teaching teens and tweens. Even at 43, I am old enough to whistle through my teeth and say, “What are those whippersnappers getting on about? I never heard that word before!” I feel removed from them.

But our church is desperate for volunteers who will guide these people. Maybe I should try to move closer to where they are, even knowing that they use their new-fangled language and activities to distinguish themselves from those despised among men (i.e., Gen Xers and early Millennials like me). Reaching out would be a good thing to do.

Another of my common excuses is that something good that I am already doing gets in the way of doing a new good thing.

For instance, at Christmas, I know I could be doing good by helping serve meals at the downtown shelter’s Christmas dinner. My excuse is that I am busy with gift purchasing, decorating, and baking. But who isn’t? Only those who won’t otherwise get a taste of turkey. Maybe I should give up some of my activities for their sake.

On Easter Sunday morning, I go to church. However, I don’t join the sunrise gathering at a Winnipeg pond attended by my kids, spouse, and most of his other family members. Why? My excuse is that I am responsible to make sure the kids come home to a well-designed Easter egg hunt they carry out before the worship service begins. But really, come on. It’s 6 o’clock in the morning. And its so much easier to stay in a warm house clothed in slippers and dressing gown, cup of coffee in hand than it is to put on my boots and coat to trudge out into the cold, often snowy weather. Is prepping an egg hunt really the best way to support the faith of my family?

For me, it’s the “I don’t want to do the good things I should do” that needs to change. This lack of desire aligns with Pauls description of what accountability before God and others looks like. To understand ourselves, we need to reflect on our motives continually. My reflection shows me that I need to do good things. Things that are both uncomfortable and manifest my commitment to give my whole life to Jesus.

Lent is as good a time as any to stop making excuses.