About a decade ago my young son and I sat in Katarina’s kitchen with some other invited moms and their children. As we munched on Katarina’s flaxseed carob-chip cookies, she suddenly clapped her hands. “Let me have your attention,” she said in her German accent. “We will now have worship in the family room.”
Her toddler son, Fritz, scowled. “When can we play?”
“Worship comes first.” Katarina led us to the family room and read a devotional. She then invited us to kneel for prayer.
Everyone complied . . . except Fritz.
Katarina squinted at him. “Get down on your knees, Fritz.”
“I don’t want to.” He delivered his verdict in a sing-song voice.
“We are kneeling to talk to Jesus. Get on the floor.”
“I want to stay here.” The young dissenter pushed farther into the back of the couch.
“I’m comperbull.” He hugged a pillow. “It’s soft.”
“Comfortable? Soft?” The pitch of Katarina’s voice rose with each word. “Jesus hung on the cross for you! And you can’t even kneel for him?”
This was one of those moments when I, while kneeling with my eyes half closed, tried to give the impression that I wasn’t listening. But I not only heard every word of their exchange; I couldn’t forget it.
“Jesus hung on the cross for you! And you can’t even . . .”
As those words echoed in my mind over the next months (and still do), I completed the sentence in personal ways:
You can’t even . . .
get up 30 minutes earlier to have devotional time with God.
dig into your vacation fund to help a refugee family.
volunteer your afternoon to move someone’s heavy books.
give up social media every seven days to focus on spiritual thoughts.
As I rehearsed the sentence for myself, I realized that the “can’t” really needed to be “won’t.
“You won’t even . . . “ These were daily choices I was making–choices to stay on the cushy couch when God might be calling me to more spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible study, temperance, stewardship and service.
And then I thought about the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:18-23). Three gospels record his brief interaction with Jesus, and all three have basically the same details, including the challenge Jesus gave him: “sell your possessions, give to the poor, and follow Me.”
The OUTLOOK theme this year is “There’s More: Strengthening Our Spirituality.” And that’s exactly what Jesus was telling this young man: “There’s more you can experience and give.”
He is actually a well-known Bible character because of this galvanizing exchange, yet I can’t help but wonder what more we would be reading about if he’d followed Jesus’ call. In the same way, what more are you and I missing because we’re too comfortable? We want to be in a soft, warm, secure place. But is there more? What is the more Jesus is offering you today?
Fritz did finally get off the couch and onto his knees.
I hope we will do the same.
Lori Peckham teaches communication and English courses at Union College. She has served as editor of Insight and Women of Spirit magazines and the “Guide’s Greatest” book series, as well as written for numerous publications.