The Easy Way

I’ve always been sensitive to being fed things that simply aren’t true. Since my wife was diagnosed with cancer and been going through chemotherapy, I’ve been particularly sensitive to “Cancer can be cured/staved off with these simple foods/exercises/processes/tricks/whatever. Big Name Doctor/Hospital/University/Celebrity said so!” Every time I see another one of these, it just makes me a little crazy.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. The very word, “cancer”, carries a frightening weight to it. Treatments are actually pretty reliable if the cancer is spotted early, but it still evokes panic anyway, perhaps because it’s just carried the stigma for so long already. We’re scared of the suffering it can cause, and that fear spurs us into action.

We go looking for a solution. And let’s face it, chemotherapy doesn’t sound like a great solution. Nausea and hair loss are the ones everybody knows about, but those are just some of the side-effects that come along with it. Currently, my wife is enduring joint pain, bone pain, exhaustion, excessive stomach acid, and on and on. The cure sounds worse than the disease, and it’s felt like it more than once. Who would want this?

So, when that solution sounds lousy, we go looking for another one. We go looking, not always even fully aware of what’s going on, for other ways to get out from under the fear and danger, and when we find something that sounds good, we grab hold of it.

And it’s not just with cancer. We do this with everything. Everyone has their weaknesses in this realm somewhere.We Christians, I have found, have a tendency to avoid confrontation or hurting someone, trusting that things will work out if we just don’t say anything, despite the fact that not saying anything will often cause more problems in the long run and result in greater hurt and confrontation later. I sometimes tend to assume that when plan A fails, failure is the inevitable outcome and drop into melancholy because it’s easier than finding another option and trying again. Without even thinking about it, we spot the tough road and avoid it, even making up easier roads that aren’t there at all.

And why shouldn’t we? After all, David wrote, “Even though I spot the valley of the shadow of death, I realize I’m on the wrong path and turn back to find the green pastures and still waters because that’s where you always are.”

Okay, so David never wrote that. It’s what our guts wish he’d written, but it’s just not there. The path goes through the valley of the shadow of death. This is where the shepherd leads sometimes, and this is where we’re called to go. On the other side is a table prepared and an overflowing cup (eventually), but the way is through the valley, not around it.

But we go looking for other routes. We grab hold of hope wherever we can, and sometimes we even spread the news: Look! I found a way past the valley that isn’t as hard! And so we spread false hope. We can even become dogmatic and defensive when people point out flaws in our false hopes. No; your’e wrong! It has to be true! The deeper truth is that we’re too scared to believe that it might not be. We’re scared that disaster will strike otherwise.

Looking for an easier way isn’t always a bad thing, of course. It would be absurd to say that getting a spoon is too easy, and therefore God calls us to eat our soup with a knife. But finding the easy path is something we can do in response to habit, fear, or sloth rather than more virtuous or godly motives. And we are always called to listen to and be present with the Spirit and attend to His way when He chooses to guide us. Our kneejerk reactions just don’t always lend themselves this way. We can default to ways that are more autonomous than tied to God or vicious than virtuous.

So in what ways do you sometimes shy away from what is difficult or frightening, perhaps without even realizing it? Have you built up habits, maybe even habitual fears that cause you to seek easy paths that are harder int he long run or even paths that don’t work at all? What would God say about this if you asked Him?

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