It happened and I didn’t even know it, at least not right away. We had just finished an event this week and I was helping to clean up. Everything had to be taken out of room and to our van and our portable sound system was next. Without even thinking, I grabbed it with one hand and started walking. I knew it was heavy, I knew I shouldn’t be carrying it by myself and yet there I was. Later the same day, I unpacked our van and unloaded a heavy box of Bibles. That box had to be moved to where it belonged and once again, I ignored my best instincts and hefted the box onto my shoulders and started walking. Slowly, but surely, my body began to fight back. By midafternoon, I was feeling a strange tingling in my leg and a growing ache in my back. Sitting down didn’t feel so good. I had made a big mistake. In my haste to be helpful, I ignored good lifting techniques and now I was going to pay for it. By that night I was in severe pain and knew that sleeping was going to be a challenge.
The next day, I was supposed to help our team clean out the basement of one of our stores and I was pretty useless. I could barely get in and out of the van. While I knew what needed to be done, I was not much help. For all practical purposes, I was sidelined and I hated it. How had this happened? Simple. I made some bad choices. This time those choices had painful consequences. Recovery would not be quick and I was going to have to make some different decisions in the weeks to come. No more heavy lifting for a while and much more thought about how I lift heavy objects in the future.
As all this was happening and I was struggling to find a comfortable position for sleeping, I began to wonder how many other choices we face in life that are just like this. How many times do we know what we are supposed to do and then do the opposite anyway? In one of the most authentic and vulnerable verses in the Bible the Apostle Paul admits, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” How often do we take people for granted, refuse to pick up a phone and call someone or simply ignore a problem and hope that it will go away? Knowing what to do is one thing, actually doing it is another thing entirely – that takes courage. Andy Crouch talks about this in his latest book, The Tech Wise Family. He says, “…even though it’s incredibly hard to simply know what we should do, it’s even harder to act on what we know we should do. Because almost all the time, the most faithful, the most loving, and the wisest thing to do is scary, hard and painful”
At the end of the week, I got to attend one of the most extraordinary events I have ever been to. Our local church was celebrating the life of our Pastor, Ron Lutz, who is stepping down from his role as lead pastor after thirty years. It was a wonderful night and an incredible celebration of one of the humblest men I have known. As person after person spoke, a pattern began to emerge. Without even realizing it, Ron had had an outsized influence far beyond the church he helped to plant. Many young pastors that he had mentored have gone on to serve in key ministry positions at other churches. His support of one of those men led to a church planting network of over eight daughter churches in the Philadelphia area. One of the people who thanked Ron for his years of service that night was the renowned church planter and author, Tim Keller, who counts Ron as a friend. Serving alongside Ron as one of the elders in our church, I know something about his leadership style. He cares about the little things. He made the tough choices to get involved in the mess of other people’s lives when it would have been easier to avoid it. He pursued reconciliation and forgiveness and publicly admitted his mistakes. He led by example and I am profoundly grateful for his influence in my life. As I face tough choices ahead whether it be lifting properly or being willing to forgive someone who has hurt me, I have a Godly example in my pastor who was willing to do the scary, hard and painful things. Now it’s my turn to make better choices.