Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Inconvenience Store

Most everyone in North America has been inside a convenience store. Gas station, snack shop, necessities, occasionally hot food, public rest rooms all located near where you are or where you're passing by. At one point my sister lived right across the street from one and if I wanted something to drink, I took a little stroll with my dollar and brought back some liquid refreshment. I called the store "My sister's kitchen."

Let's face it, these stores are set up so you have no good excuse not to buy something. They are convenient. But can you imagine an "inconvenience" store? Most items would be out of stock, the rest rooms would always be busy, the gas pumps wouldn't work right, the coolers would be broken down and the cash registers wouldn't give change. On top of that, the store would be in an out-of-the-way location, way off the beaten path and open only a few hours each day. Of course a store like that wouldn't be in business long. We, the consuming public wouldn't stand for it. We want our coffee hot, not tepid. We want what we want and we want it NOW!

OK, the inconvenience store is a stupid idea. But think a minute how much we value convenience. Much of the time, we'll take easy over cheap if there is a choice to be made. That must be the case because eating out always costs more than eating at home, but if it's been a busy day we'll gladly pay to have someone else do the cooking and cleaning up afterward. We treasure convenience. And because we do, our Christian walk sometimes suffers.

We are commanded to love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves. Fat chance! (Sorry, that just slipped out.) But seriously when you think about it, sometimes loving your neighbor is very inconvenient. Let's say I see someone I know stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire. If I take the time to stop and help change the tire, I'm going to be late for an appointment and likely end up with grease all over my hands. It's easy for me to justify driving on by, or maybe just stopping to offer the use of my cell phone for a minute. After all, why should my life be messed up because an acquaintance drove that car on those bald tires a few miles too far?

There are other needs too. Grandpa is lonely living by himself, but if I stop to visit or even pick up the phone I'll end up blowing two hours of my day. My son's friend can't find a ride home, but he lives 20 minutes out of my way. The single mom down the street can't afford to buy her kids new shoes to replace the outgrown pairs, but why should I give away the money I'd like to use for myself? The church needs someone to work with the youth, but that's going to require me giving up a lot of my free time -- as if I had much of that in the first place.

We have placed such a value on convenience in our culture. But why? I think the answer is plain. It's selfishness. We do not want to give away anything, or at least not anything that will hurt us in any way. Our comfort reigns. Give up cable TV and instead give the money to a homeless shelter? Unthinkable! Stop doing some expensive hobby to volunteer time for evangelism? Are you nuts? How dare anyone ask us to give up our convenience... our comfort... our excess.

But that's just what Jesus asked us to do. He who tries to save his life will lose it. Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow. You know. Those verses we tend to blow right past without looking at them. Jesus told us to put our selfish desires to death, but that's oh, so hard to do. But if the only love we show to our neighbor costs us nothing, is that love really and truly love?

Strolling the aisles of the convenience store, we see all kinds of things laid out for us to easily pick up and purchase. But Christian service often is displayed only at my mythical inconvenience store where it's hard to get to, frustrating to find, and occasionally not as fulfilling as we'd like it to be. But the love of self and the altar of convenience is found on every street corner, is open 24 hours a day and is easy to justify in our own minds. We know where Christ wants us, but the call of personal convenience is so strong.

Lord give me the strength to deny myself and serve you by serving others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful post, reading through it I remembered I hadn't donated blood for over six months. Signed up for an appointment next week!