What Are You Willing To Suffer For?
Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17
What are your dreams for your life? Do they encompass your loved ones?
Most people have hopes, goals, or large wishes for ourselves and for the people nearest to us. Sometimes those are ethereal longings we never devote time to flesh out in our lives. Recently, a couple close friends and I have been considering another question posed by Mark Manson. Manson suggests when it comes to stating our dreams we all want mostly the same things… happiness, rich relationships, comfort, latest technology, dream home, deepening romance, financial abundance, career success, and on and on it goes. Manson suggests a far more interesting question is, “What are you willing to struggle for?”
It’s an interesting question. What pain are you willing to endure? What easy paths are you willing to discipline yourself not to walk down? What will you deny yourself? What challenges will you face head on and not give up or give in?
The answer to these questions speaks volumes about who we are and what kind of people we are becoming.
The Hebrew people understood themselves to be chosen by God. Far from winning some sort of divine lottery, they realized through excruciating years of experience that their closeness entitled them to service to God (and others) and suffering through hardships, misfortune, and the difficulties of being in covenant relationship with God. Service and suffering.
God’s hopes, dreams, desires, and instructions involved a deep formation of their inner lives, family dynamics, occupations, and national life. Sin’s selfishness had cloaked every part of themselves in layers of lies, quick-fixes, mistrust, greed, addiction, resentment, and violence.
So when God began a covenant relationship with the Hebrew people God had dreams about a new way for them to experience life. God likely knew this way of life would be hard for them as it is for us. It would involve trusting God and allowing all of these false ways of being the source of their own lives to fall off from them like the ill-fitting garments they were. The problem wasn’t the garments of sin, but the brokenness inside of all of them, and us that keeps choosing to wear them, and invest them with our whole identity.
God gave the ten commandments, not as a way to earn our way into God’s favor, but to set forth God’s dreams, hopes, and desires for God’s people. These ten commandments speak truth to the lies which consume us. God alone. God beyond our crafting and limitations. God above our cheapening rhetoric. Rest in God’s Presence. Honor your parents. Don’t murder. Honor marriage. No stealing. Speak truthfully about and to others. Don’t crave what others have.
If we read these words intentionally, then they likely challenge all the ways we seek to live life resisting and in opposition to God’s good way.
These commands were not about earning God. They were showing us all the ways we need to surrender more fully so God’s Presence can be at the center of our personal and communal lives. When we look at these commands we can rationalize ourselves around them or we can open ourselves up to the painful, yet liberating path of surrender. This pain is not ego-inflating, but the pain of ego-dying. It is the pain of our self-centered dreams coming to an end and God’s dream being formed within us.
Are you willing to endure the pain of dying to your selfishness?