Gruel is nourishing.

“Thank you, Lord, for this food we are about to eat. We pray You bless it to nourish our bodies. In Jesus’s name, Amen.” This is a pretty standard way to pray before eating, right? But it suddenly strikes me that in all the pre-meal prayers I’ve ever heard, I think no one (including me) has ever asked God to “make the food taste really good and help us enjoy it fully.” And why not?

If we’re going to pray God will make it nourishing, doesn’t it seem just as sensible to ask Him to make it enjoyable? Surely He already knows most of us are at least as interested in the pleasure of eating as we are in the nutritional value of it. Very few of us are so perverse that we only consider nutritional value. Are we embarrassed to admit we’re enjoying the mouths and noses that God gave us when He made our bodies? Does it not please God to watch us delight in His gifts?

So here’s what I’m going to pray tonight for dinner: “Thanks for the yummy grub, Lord. Help me enjoy it as much as these nifty taste buds You gave me will allow.”

What would Jesus "like?"

One of my favorite little features of facebook is the elegantly simple “like” button which can be clicked for any post or comment. First, it doesn’t say “agree,” which is important since you can “like” an expression without quite endorsing the view it’s offering. Second, it doesn’t have a non-positive counterpart, almost as if Mark Zuckerberg’s grandmother reminded him that silence is better than certifying negativity.

As someone who puts a lot of stuff on my pages, I learned early on that “likes” have a seductive appeal. Precisely because it’s so nice to get them, especially several of them, it can become quite difficult to resist interpreting their lack as a discouraging form of silent feedback.

But in realizing this, I had a shift in my own behavior. See, as a “critic,” I used to be cautious (perhaps stingy) with my “likes” so as to preserve their value when bestowed from on high, at least until I realized how ridiculously pompous and selfish that was.

If “likes” made people happy and encouraged them, I decided to “like” as much as possible. The idea of being generous with my affirmation, especially when it costs me nothing at all, suddenly seemed like a Gospel obligation. If people really are needy for encouragement, what sort of Grinch would I be for not giving it to them as freely as I possibly could?

The only drawback in proclaiming this is that now people will realize how little time I spend reading on facebook, which is the only reason I don’t “like” as much as I otherwise would.

On the rich young ruler.

When the Rich Young Ruler asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus rebukes him by saying, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” This has often been misunderstood as Jesus denying His own moral perfection or divinity, but it’s actually the exact opposite.

The man comes to Jesus with the basic idea that some people are good (they get eternal life) and other people are bad (they get eternal death), and he wants to be sure he’s on the right spiritual career track. He seems like a very admirable and serious man of religion. But his insecurity about whether he might be missing some minor aspect of salvation is palpable. And far from reassuring him, Jesus instead rips out from underneath his assumption that anyone but God can be good.

See, this man (like many others before and since) thinks that his material wealth is evidence of his good standing with God, an error the Bible dispels repeatedly, most famously in Job. Quite on the contrary, his wealth (both morally and materially) is precisely the problem. He’s so full of his own worth that he can’t even see how far away from godliness he is and how Godliness Itself is actually standing right in front of him.

That’s why the final assignment to sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus is so devastating. Jesus simultaneously obliterates the man’s entire system of self-justification and declares His own identity as the only One worthy of being followed. But the man is so sad with what he’s losing that he can’t even see what he would gain. And the tragic irony is that his entire goal of practicing religious perfection in the first place was to eventually be allowed to spend eternity with the Being standing right in front of him, extending the invitation to come in. (Mark 10:17-22)

The joys of feedback.

After several years of receiving feedback emails on my occasional op-eds, I have to say they generally fall into two categories: those that sadden me and those that encourage me.

Those that sadden me usually do so because the person has failed to comprehend what I was saying. Since I try really hard to be clear, this usually means he hasn’t tried equally hard to listen or else can’t because of some ideological deafness. Either way, it’s sad.

But most responses are encouraging. Some people agree and want to praise me. This is the lowest level of encouragement, but it’s nice. Other people agree in part and disagree in part and want to discuss it. This is even better because it means we’re making progress, and I’m to blame. But what I truly relish are the people who so completely distort my meaning that I initially think they haven’t even read the article.

The normal response to such distortions is anger. But I’ve learned instead to take the highest form of pleasure from them. Anyone who needs to misrepresent your central thesis to criticize it pays you the highest compliment of admitting he cannot successfully refute your actual one.

"But what if there's no log in my eye?"

Pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, and judgmentalism are all problems that plague Christians and alienate others from our faith. As a result, Christian leaders constantly remind us that we are sinners too so as to not think ourselves better than anyone else.

But there is one person for whom this line of persuasion couldn’t have worked: Jesus

It suddenly strikes me that the one person in all of history who could legitimately look around at everyone else and pretty confidently say, “I’m way better than all of you,” was Jesus. If ever anyone was entitled to pride, arrogance, self-righteousness, and judgmentalism, it was Him. And yet He wasn’t any of these things.

On the one hand, this is definitive proof that there is something inherently undivine about them, if even He didn’t show them. And on the other hand, it makes me that much more amazed by His complete lack of contempt for the very sinners He was qualified to die for precisely because He was so much better than they were.

Arminianism, Calvinism, and Universalism

God wants all people to be saved.
God is completely in control of salvation.
And yet, some people wind up in hell for eternity.

These three simple propositions, each drawing on substantial Biblical support, create a logical conundrum. Arminians solve it by saying God is not completely in control of salvation. Calvinists solve it by saying God does not want all people to be saved. And Universalists solve it by saying no one winds up in hell for eternity. Although they are historically in the minority (for good reasons), the Universalist is really asking how a Good and Powerful God can allow anyone to be in hell forever. It’s a really good question.

But it’s worth noting that it’s really just the same as another, much more well-known question: How can a Good and Powerful God make a world full of evil? The problem of hell, therefore, is really just another form of the problem of evil. And if we can learn how to live theologically with an evil world made by a perfect God, perhaps we can also learn how to live theologically with an eternal hell made by Him too.

What's an enumerated power?

I think it’s fair to say that most people are pretty confused about the Constitution. To illustrate the point, consider a simple question. If the First Amendment were repealed, could the Federal Government censor a newspaper?

The way most people think about things, this question is very frightening because everybody knows the First Amendment is the key to protecting “freedom of the press” against Federal censorship. But they’re wrong. Even if there had never been a First Amendment or it somehow got repealed, freedom of the press wouldn’t change one tiny bit because Congress would STILL have no authority to censor a newspaper.

When you look at Article 1 (the part where the States tell Congress what powers they have agreed to give away to it), it begins by saying, “All legislative Powers herein granted…,” which clearly means that only some (not all) Powers have been so granted. Then, in Section 8, it specifies, “The Congress shall have the Power To…,” listing 18 and only 18 specific powers the States are agreeing to forsake and give over to the national government. And if you read this list, you’ll notice pretty quickly that “regulate the content of newspapers” is not included. This means that even in the absence of the First Amendment, Congress would be not one inch closer to having the power to censor a newspaper. Or so the authors of the Constitution thought as do we who believe in it still.

However, in the era of so-called “Modern Constitutional Law,” an eager Senator might say that if only we could get rid of that pesky clause about having a free press, then he COULD censor newspapers since newspapers are sold across state lines and are therefore part of interstate commerce.

And it was precisely this sort of expansion which many original State legislators worried about when considering the adoption of a Bill of Rights. They were concerned the entire Constitutional scheme would one day be flipped on its head. Rather than Congress always being understood as having the power to do only what was enumerated in Article 1, Section 8 of the incorporating contract, they worried that redundantly spelling out particular restrictions against Congressional expansion in the form of rights would eventually enable Congress’s power to mutate into the into the unrecognizably different idea that Congress can do anything not specifically prohibited by the Bill of Rights. To assuage such fears, they added the 9th and 10th Amendments, reiterating the point about who really held the power by default and clarifying (again, quite redundantly) that Congress could only do what was in Article 1, Section 8.

Well, as it turns out, those who worried just weren’t worried enough. Even with these safeguards so boldly in place, the mutation is virtually complete. And although it may have taken 220 years for their worst fears to become reality, these ancient opponents of the Bill of Rights don’t sound like delusional or paranoid fearmongers today. They sound like prophets.

On failing to preach the Gospel

What does it mean to preach the Gospel?

At the risk of tremendous arrogance, I think I know. And, sadly, despite having the very best of intentions, I think a lot of people don’t have any idea.

True preaching begins with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, aims at revealing it, and leads people to a richer understanding of it, beginning, middle, and end. It is based on the Bible, but for the point of showing how Scripture points to Christ. It addresses our problems, but with the offered solution of being transformed by Christ. And it draws us into the worship of Christ by revealing His magnificence and love more clearly and vividly to us.

In contrast, what often passes for preaching is really a variation on the self-help lecture, whose essential message is, “Life is hard, but if you follow some advice from the Bible, things will go better.” Even when such a sermon features a careful exposition of the text, it’s still not preaching the Gospel since the focus and solution is self, not Christ. Sensing this, some people try to remedy the deficiency by attaching a brief summary of the Gospel at the end of such lectures, like an appendix.

But the Gospel isn’t a postscript. It’s the whole script! And if, after preaching a sermon, you feel the need to also say something about the Gospel just to be sure It doesn’t get left out entirely, the horrifying reality is that it already has been because you weren’t really preaching a sermon in the first place.

The unforeseen benefits of acting Biblically.

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus explains that the pattern for correcting a fellow Christian is simple: First, confront him privately yourself. Second, if necessary, confront him privately with one or two others. And third, if necessary, confront him before the whole group of believers.

In all my years of thinking about the ethics of confrontation, it always seemed obvious that the big benefit of this way of doing things was for the person being confronted, since you lead him away from sin in the least embarrassing way. I had never realized the massive alternate benefit in protecting the person doing the confronting from making a public fool out of himself when he is wrong.

I discovered this rather inadvertently after I overreacted to something a friend posted on facebook, first publicly and then (after realizing my mistake and deleting my response) via email to him privately. Because I turned out to be so wrong, my own reputation was protected from the truth of my stupidity. Even though we confronters don’t understand that side of the benefit, it still protects us when we do things the right way.

Slippery slope anxiety.

As part of my weight-loss and healthier eating program, I’ve recently discovered how to make vegetable soup from scratch. It’s remarkably easy, as a matter of fact. But I can imagine what would happen to someone’s soup if he approached it based on the fear of a slippery slope.

The recipe calls for salt, but out of a fear of putting in too much salt, the novice would put in none at all. The recipe calls for pepper, but out of a fear of one pinch leading to a pile, he would leave it out altogether. The recipe calls for carrots, but from a fear of carrots dominating the flavor, he might put in none. The recipe calls for onions, but too many onions makes a funky texture, so maybe he doesn’t use any. And the recipe calls for many other things, but every time he goes to add something, he instead refrains out of an irrational fear of not being able to stop before he’s added too much.

In the end, of course, he winds up with a pot full of piping hot garlic water (because everybody knows you can never add too much garlic to anything). And that’s the point. If we’re always so afraid of excess whatever that we do no whatever at all, the soup of our lives winds up being devoid of both taste and nutritional value.

It's not easy being orange.

As someone who both enjoys a good celebration and happens to be Irish, I always participate in St. Patrick’s day. The most visible way I participated yesterday was by wearing a bright green Cardinal’s jersey, but with an also-visible orange T-shirt underneath.

Over the course of the day I found myself explaining this to people, the vast majority of whom had no idea what the green really represents. Originally standing for Irish nationalism, the more common association of green is for the Catholics. In contrast, the orange represents the Protestants. As most people don’t know, this is why the Irish flag places each color on the outside with a white stripe of peace uniting them.

Now, since I’m a Protestant, I should really wear orange, not green. But if I did that, I would be almost defiantly stating my differentness (and the superiority of my obscure knowledge). Instead, since the culture embraces green, I dress as I do so I can honor what I know the colors mean and yet still bless people with a little new information rather than poke them in the eye with it.

The hermeneutics of fear.

Here are some potentially uncomfortable questions about the Bible:

--Is it possible that 40 days is an expression of long time rather than an actual day count? (Exodus 24:18) (Mark 1:13)
--Did the Israelites leaving Egypt feel a tickle from the feathers when God carried them on eagle’s wings? (Exodus 19:4)
--And will those who wait upon the Lord need to buy new clothes with holes to accommodate their new eagle wings? (Isaiah 40:31)
--If I look at a sexy woman, can I wait until I get home to gouge out my eye, or do I have to do it immediately? (Matthew 5:29)
--Can the story of the woman caught in adultery retain its value even though it isn’t in the earliest manuscripts? (John 7:53-8:11)
--Does everyone who wants to be a Christian have to sell all his possessions first? (Luke 14:33)
--Is it possible Job was a play rather than a historically accurate biography?
--Under what circumstances, exactly, would a girl consider throwing her pearl necklace into a pig sty? (Mattew 7:6)

I know these questions make us Bible conservatives feel very nervous, but consider some easier ones to illustrate the point.
--Have you ever actually seen cats or dogs (let alone both) falling from the clouds?
--Are there actually any looks that kill?
--Would it be a violation of animal cruelty laws to eat a horse in extreme hunger?
--Is Narnia less meaningful just because it’s only a story some professor of literature invented?

See, the Library of God we call The Holy Bible is a collection spanning dozens of centuries written by dozens of authors in dozens of literary styles. And although I understand the alluring simplicity of taking it all literally as a way to avoid taking it all liberally, I worry that in so doing we’re actually sometimes ruining rather than honoring its meaning as the revealed, inerrant, and inspired Word of God. In short, far from taking the Bible seriously requiring us to take it literally, taking the Bible seriously specifically requires us to not take it literally at least some of the time.

Stop judging me by my....

I’m more than just a pretty face. So don’t judge me by my looks and body.

I’m more than just a pretty financial portfolio. So don’t judge me by my income and savings.

I’m more than just a pretty mind. So don’t judge me by my beliefs and insights.

I’m more than just a pretty personality. So don’t judge me by my wit and social skills.

I’m more than just a pretty character. So don’t judge me by my virtues and my standards.

Although we’re pretty quick to see the superficiality of being judged by our looks, in the end aren’t all of these ways of being judged pretty superficial? I mean they can all change or disappear entirely, and most of them will if I live long enough, right? So why do we invest so heavily in them and strive to be judged by them?

I have a different proposal. Judge me by the fact that the Creator of the universe loves me enough to die for me. I promise I’ll try my best to judge you the same way.

Can you even imagine...?

Imagine a person who has billions of dollars in net worth hanging out for the day with an illegal immigrant farm worker. Then imagine him deciding to transfer every last penny of his holdings into this produce-picker’s control, becoming destitute himself in the process. Would you say he did a loving thing?

Now imagine that the President of the United States of America decided to spend the afternoon sitting and talking with a homeless man. Then, imagine that he let that man come stay in the White House while he, himself, stayed in the cardboard box the man had been living in. Would you say he did a loving thing?

The funny thing about both of these examples is that neither the billionaire nor the President are more essentially valuable than the social outcasts they traded places with. All of them are human. That’s why the almost unimaginable love they showed in my examples shrinks to virtually nothing in comparison with the truly incomprehensible display of love given by God on the Cross.

What are your clothes requesting?

Have you ever wondered why we wear clothes?

I mean, Clothing is a uniquely human thing to do, essentially unnatural in comparison with animals. Moreover, although some climates encourage it, others (like Phoenix!) certainly do not. So why do we wear clothes?

It’s pretty simple, really. Whereas Adam and Eve were created naked and unashamed, The Fall so deranged our sexual impulses that seeing another’s private areas strongly leads us toward seeing that person as a mere object or animal. We thus cover our bodies to protect our dignity as human beings against such objectification or animalization. We state with our clothes, “You must not treat me as a thing or a beast!” which is the most common and likely result of appearing naked to a stranger.

How terribly perverted, then, when we turn clothes into a medium of enticement. Tragically, rather than requesting respect and honor for the person, such attire virtually demands we treat its wearer as a mere thing.

Everything I say is the truest true.

There are some groups of people who call themselves Christians and yet deny that Jesus Christ was really God in the flesh. This mistake would be just an adorable bit of silliness if only it weren’t so important. And yet, sometimes we all fail to see things that are embarrassingly obvious once someone else observes them for us.

For instance, every prophet in the Old Testament uses the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.” The importance of this is that it differentiates the announcer from the Author, clearly demarcating the speaker as the merely human mouthpiece rather than the Divine source of the message.

But then something really odd happens when Jesus shows up. He never says, “Thus says the Lord.” Instead, the trademark Jesusism is, “Truly, truly I say to you.” Not only does He call His words inerrant (literally true truth), but he deliberately draws a contrast between Himself and the Old Testament prophets by intentionally uniting both the human announcer and the Divine Author in His own Person.

"Oh, Spirit of the lamp...."

In fairy tales, a genie is a tremendously powerful being capable of granting almost any wish. Although Genie stories differ over details, the one thing they all have in common is that the Genie is crucially limited by his “itty-bitty living space” and his subjugation to the wishes of the lamp’s owner. All that power literally at the rubbing of one’s fingertips. It’s an incredible fantasy.

But there’s a profoundly dangerous inversion in claiming mastery over something so thoroughly greater than yourself. And this inevitably leads to disrespect and abuse of the disgruntled Genie until he finally grants his master’s most self-destructive wishes. The idea of befriending the Genie or even seeking the Genie’s guidance rarely occurs to his owners.

So the real question we have to always ask ourselves is, “How would my picture of God and my way of relating to Him be different if He were merely my Genie?” The smaller the list, the more concerned you should be. And in the meantime, perhaps you should stop rubbing your Bible and hoping it makes your wishes come true.

The honor of honesty.

This past weekend, we arranged to have another couple come over Sunday evening at 5PM. We knew there was a chance they might not be coming because he was tired, so we confirmed plans at church that morning. During the afternoon, my boys kept pestering me to go to the park, but by the time they asked there wasn’t enough time to go and return before our friends arrived. So I told them it would have to be another time, but I felt bad about having to tell them no. My wife also made some adjustments to her schedule because we were expecting our friends at 5.

Then the unpleasant thing happened. At 4:54 I got an email apologizing for having to cancel. Partially because we were looking forward to the fun of having them over, but more because we had inconvenienced ourselves and our kids in accommodating their arrival, we were both irritated.

So I replied to the email and told them the basic truth: We love you, but we’re annoyed. There’s nothing to be done about it, and we forgive you. We just wanted you to know.

It would have been far easier to not say anything. And in fact, if we didn’t love them as much as we do and respect them as much as we do, we would have done just that. But instead, we decided to pay them the compliment of honesty, thus honoring their importance to us and also their ability to not be offended by the truth. And what could have become a wedge in our relationship has instead now become a source of growth and intimacy. Are friends really friends who need to conceal their true feelings from each other?

Of course, we’ll have to see what happens the next time they get invited over to hang out with the high-strung and rudely honest Tallmans.

What really divides us?

I love sports, and as most of you know, I’m an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. The fact that I love baseball in particular gives me an instant connection to any other fan and gives us plenty of fun things to talk about. What’s fascinating, in fact, is that even if someone is a fan of a rival team (Cubs, for instance), our different loyalties don’t really divide us. Instead, our common passion unites us. We joke about hating each other, but it’s almost always just that: a joke.

Something similar is true of discussing movies with other people. If I discover someone else really enjoys movies and has seen a lot of them, I can instantly have hours of conversation about this most modern art medium. Even if we disagree passionately about particular movies, our common interest in the subject keeps bonds us more than it divides us. And unless I’m very mistaken, this same phenomenon is true of discussing books and food and cars and music and many other things.

So why isn’t it this way in politics? Why do rival political views so easily divide rather than unite those who cherish them? It’s because we’re a democracy. And in a democracy like ours, having political power means that persuading our fellow man becomes vital, almost a matter of warfare. And since democracy is a kind of proxy for warfare (we vote at each other rather than shooting at each other), this isn’t all that surprising.

But what if we didn’t have that political power? I wonder whether political discussions wouldn’t be more like sports talk if we had, say, a monarchy? Perhaps even religious disagreement, thus depoliticized, would become more amicable. And in spite of the obvious risks of finding a trustworthy monarch, wouldn’t diminished social fragmentation also be one of the unobvious rewards?

In the end, is it really disagreement that makes us enemies…or is it the power at stake in the disagreement? And although monarchy probably isn’t the answer, could limited government be?

Who's shoving what where?

“Stop shoving your religion down my throat!”

The person saying this means that he feels coerced and violated by over-aggressive evangelistic tactics. As such, it’s a useful reminder that browbeating anyone is rarely winsome because the message gets obliterated by the messenger.

Nevertheless, this phrase with genuine applications is surely overused in reaction to almost any expression of Christian insight or motivation in the public square to the point that one might often reasonably respond, “How would a legitimate effort to proselytize you differ from what you call shoving it down your throat?” But this distinction isn’t my real concern.

What suddenly catches my attention is that this phrase is only ever used about religious persuasion. One never hears it used to describe Hollywood’s sexual agenda or every DVD’s anti-smoking propaganda, for example. But if “shoving a message down someone’s throat” is bad, these must certainly qualify. Also, what about the things our broadcast and print media try to force feed us by what they cover ad nauseum? To wit, am I the only one who wishes they’d stop trying to shove Charlie Sheen down my throat?

The meaning of man's aloneness.

“It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Most people know God said this about Adam, but they’re usually wrong about what it means. They think God meant something like, “Guys get lonely if they don’t have a girl around.” And as true as this may be, it’s far too small a lesson for such a grand scene. The problem isn’t Adam’s neediness. The problem is that Adam is supposed to image God, and he’s only partway there.

Despite first plants and then animals, Adam has no suitable companion because he’s categorically different from the natural world. So far, this aloneness is actually good imaging because it show God’s distinctness from creation even while Adam’s presence within Eden as gardener represents God’s involvement in that creation. Thus Adam by himself does a fine job imaging both God’s transcendence from and immanence in the natural world.

But he still has an “aloneness problem,” that requires Eve to be resolved. And when we interpret this as meaning something like, “Men get bored, so God gave them women,” we miss the far more profound lesson. It is only after Adam is placed into a gendered, marital family where his social and reproductive nature can properly show God’s loving communal identity, that they can finally be called “very good.”

On legislating sexuality.

After an excellent (though tragically shortened because of the nature of radio) conversation with a libertarian Catholic about the rightness of legislating sexual morality yesterday, I think some clarification may be in order.

Christians believe that sexual union is only proper in the confines of permanent marriage between a man and a woman because this is God’s single best natural symbol for revealing Himself to His Creation. This is why He made them together in His image and told them to be fruitful and multiply (with their bodies!) during the crescendo of creation prior to declaring everything He had made “very” good.

God built us sexual as the premiere method of disclosing His own Triune nature through marriage and reproduction. That’s why every other form of sexual expression is at its core a form of blasphemy and why they’re inherently unsatisfying to people made to bear God’s image. On this all Christians agree.

Where we sometimes differ is over the appropriateness of imposing this view of human sexuality on others through the law when they don’t see things our way. There are two ways to justify this.

First, we already do something similar when we tell them not to murder because it violates the sacredness of life. Since sexuality and marriage are every bit as sacred as “mere” life, they therefore also demand society’s protection. This truth is every bit as fundamental to human reality as the right to life, fundamental enough that we should not cater to or accommodate in our laws the ignorance of other people who do not grasp it.

Second, another essential Christian doctrine is the corruption and depravity of man’s desires. This means that every American Christian considering legislation must start with the tension between letting people having a say in their government and yet knowing they will unavoidably desire the wrong things from that government. We must honor their choices to some degree, but we must not deceive ourselves into limitlessly trusting their choices to be good ones. By holding the human will as an inviolable sovereign and the protection of its corrupt desires as the objective of society, Christians seduced by libertarianism forget that there is no dignity to be found in permitting people to defile their most significant human quality: their sexuality.

As John Paul II so clearly and rightly explained, the society that debases the image of God in sexuality will also unavoidably destroy it in bodies physically. This is why solving pornography and abortion require the same basic steps. And although law is always a weak external form of control, the stigma it carries as the moral argument of last resort is still better than the neglectful silence of libertarians who claim to honor humanity by permitting people to dehumanize themselves.

It’s just no coincidence at all that regard for sexuality, life, marriage, and family all crumble together, just before the entire society turns to dust…because the breath of God’s life is no longer in it.

If only...

Life would be easier without other drivers.
Life would be easier if things never broke.
Life would be easier if other people were smarter…and funnier.
Life would be easier if we didn’t have illegal immigrants.
Life would be easier without difficult bosses.
And life would really be easier without troublesome coworkers.
In fact, life would be super easy without demanding customers.
Life would be easier if tasty foods were good for me.
Life would be easier if everything was free.
And life would definitely be easier if other women were all ugly.
Life would be easier if television shows were good and clean.
Life would be easier without petty people at church.
Life would be easier if all preaching was excellent.
Life would certainly be easier if I only had two children.
Life would even be easier than that if I only had one.
In fact, life would be easiest of all if I didn’t have any children.
And, come to think of it, life would be even easier if I didn’t have a wife.

And yet, oddly, the actual life God gave me has exactly all of these highly inconvenient elements in it.

Is it possible that ease isn’t God’s most important purpose for my life?