Monday, March 16, 2015

The One About Motives

There's a pretty strong theme in the scriptures, and in the Christian faith in general, of checking your motives.  The Bible talks frequently about how God searches the heart, and judges by that, rather than the outer appearance.

There's a pretty strong theme in my life too - checking my motives too much.  Many times, I just don't make a decision I should make, for fear of making it based on the wrong motives, regardless of what might be considered right or wrong.

Should I be friends with this person I just met? Well, what are my motives?  Am I selfishly seeking a friendship for proximity to others, or social standing, or solid style advice?  Or am I selflessly seeking a friendship to be an encouragement to others, or to help somebody learn helpful life skills (knitting and efficient dishwasher-loading seem to be my areas of expertise, in case you were wondering), or to share this love that has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit?

Should I post this picture?  Well, what are my motives?  Am I selfishly posting this picture to get people to notice how cool my life is?  Or am I selflessly posting it to spread a little more love and light (and coffee, if we're honest here) in the world?

Well, Es.  How about you stop questioning so much, and just DO THE THING.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether you're doing it for the "right" reasons or not, befriending someone is always the right thing to do.
And, as far as pictures go, I can't think of a reason to ever not spread beauty in this world.  We always need more light.

Should I pick up this hitch-hiker?

Bet you didn't think this post would go there, did you?

The fact is, more often than not, what stops me from picking up random people on the road is not the fact that my responsible safety-conscious parents drilled it into my head that I should not pick up strangers on the road when I was first learning to drive.  It really usually just ends up being a question of motives, and, by the time I've finished questioning my motives, I'm five miles past the hitch-hiker, and it's not really a question at all anymore, unless I'm not late to anything (which is never, in case you were wondering)...

This past weekend, on my way to Austin for a lunch date that I was barely going to be on time for, I saw a man on the side of the road, standing in the rain, holding out his thumb.  He was an older black man with a short thick mop of graying curly hair.  He smiled, looking open and friendly as we drove past, the whole train of us stuck behind that one 18-wheeler going 10 miles below the speed limit.

I was the caboose of that train, and I felt an overwhelming urge to stop when I noticed the hope in his eyes, even as I, the very last car, drove past.  He looked like such a kind man, I thought.  But did I stop?

No. I didn't.  I began questioning my motives, because, evidently, that's what I do best.

I looked in my rear-view mirror and watched him slowly put his arm down by his side and drop his shoulders in what looked like utter defeat.  But did I turn around?  No.

Instead, I questioned myself further.

Y'all.  The man needed a ride, and I didn't give him one, because I was busy trying to decide if I was going to do it for the right reasons.  I'm pretty sure it didn't ultimately matter what my reasons were. I ignored the urging of the Holy Spirit, choosing instead to have a fruitless conversation with myself.

Then, on my way home from work tonight, I saw this lady huffing and puffing up one of the biggest hills in town, and thought to myself, as I really often do, "I should give her a ride."

And you know what I did?

I questioned my motives - am I only thinking of offering her a ride in some confused effort at redeeming myself from a bad decision made this weekend?

I bet you thought I gave her a ride immediately, huh?  No.  I'm not that great.  But I did catch myself - I thought, you know what?  I can keep doing this all day, or I can just listen to the Spirit in me, waiting to speak.  So I stopped, literally at a stop sign, and figuratively in my heart, and I listened.  A second later, I was rolling down the window and asking her if she needed a ride.  She did, and she hustled over to my passenger side.

You know, I really wish, for my sake, more than anything, that I could say it was the best experience ever - that I got to share Jesus, and help her feel better about life, and any number of other good things.

But, really, she just sat there, listening to Andy Grammer on my radio and enjoying my air conditioning, and we chatted a little bit about the weather, and how cute her little neighborhood was.  Then she got out, and I noticed that my car smelled like cigarette smoke, which invariably gives me a headache.  So, no, it definitely wasn't a glowing experience, but at least I finally just took action when it needed to be taken, instead of trying to figure out what my motives were for said action.

This is by no means a call to pick up every random person on the side of the road, or a call to start making rash decisions, but rather an invitation to believers to embrace the freedom of listening to the Holy Spirit inside of you rather than drowning Him out with your own arguments and opinions.

Sometimes you just need to do the thing, regardless of why you're doing it.

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