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Are You Ready?: Part I

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I’m not much for routine. I don’t especially care for the “same old same old”. Doing repetitive tasks, having a set schedule, maintaining consistency and regularity in my everyday – not really my speed. I enjoy variation. I like the challenge of new situations. A sense of anxious anticipation is felt when faced with an unknown, followed by a dose of satisfaction when a positive end result is accomplished.

This was not always the case.

In the past, I experienced a significant level of anxiety when faced with unfamiliarity. In some cases, it could probably be classified as borderline fear. I did not want to try new things and that applied to virtually everything – food, people, places, etc. I would be genuinely stressed out. Ultimately, I truly believe I missed out on some great things because I hung back on the sidelines, overly worried about what might happen if I actually engaged or participated.

At this stage of life, my good friends, who know me well, will certainly find this revelation to be somewhat amusing. Their perception of me is that I’m outgoing, willing to leap into new situations, able to hold conversations with complete strangers, love being social and a prototypical extrovert. To think of me as being hesitant to venture into the unknown, especially to the point of being scared, is a foreign concept. I am usually viewed as confident, possessing a strong will and solid demeanor.

When they were children, my parents never gained a great level of confidence around the water. I don’t believe my mom ever learned to swim and I don’t remember her spending much time in the water with us when we were young. I seem to recall that dad would play in hotel pools with us when we’d travel, but I don’t know how much time he spent actually swimming. As such, they felt it important that their children be given the opportunity to obtain adequate training to that they would be comfortable around water, learning about safety and swimming technique. Since they were not necessarily qualified to provide such instruction, swimming lessons became necessary. At around age six (it was a long time ago, so my memory may be off by a year or so in either direction, but it’s generally in the ballpark), registration was completed for group lesson at a local high school which had an indoor pool. It was a good size pool, set-up for competition with multiple lanes, a couple diving boards, etc. No kiddie area, no slides or fountains, no colorful decorations, no zero entry; simply, a sizeable mass of water whose main entry and exit points were a ladder or jumping and climbing. And, of course, all of it deeper than I was tall.

The day arrived for lesson number one. Again, it was a long time ago, so most of the memories from that era are either gone or sketchy at best. But I vividly recall one detail from that day – I cried at that poolside for what seemed to be hours, terrified and unwilling to enter the water. I don’t remember if I relented that day, but at some point and by some method, I did get into to a pool and learned to swim.

That same attitude of distress continued with me in a pervasive form for decades. While I didn’t stand around sheepishly sobbing at every new prospect, the feelings still permeated, and my coping mechanisms were as varied as they were improper. In summation, I employed one of two default modes: total avoidance or overt cockiness. If I could avoid any foray into the unknown, that was my preferred solution. As time progressed and that method became less feasible, I augmented my anxiety with amplified confidence. It certainly wasn’t an overnight change, but over the course of several years it became as much a part of my personality as any other character trait.

This is a good time to note that it was only after significant reflection and self-examination that these things became apparent to me. There was no intentionality involved in personal behavior modification. It simply occurred. As time passed and I matured, I started to recognize some of these things about myself, which led to a desire to change, to improve – being better in hopes of feeling better.

Along the way, preparation became the primary tool I employed to combat the issue. While those in my life today view my preparation and organization as “type A personality”, “controlling” and “OCD”, I’ve come the understand that it’s simply the manner by which I can feel comfortable in those situations where I’m called upon to lead, perform or obtain results.

I spend a decent amount of time serving in the worship music ministry at my church. In addition to personal preparation time in advance of our group practice, I will listen to the song selections multiple times, I will compile the music sheets into transparent sleeves within a ring binder, and I will box specific sections on each song sheet (in blue ink to contrast the black print) for quick reference. I’ll go so far as to reorganize the song sheet formats so that each song is contained within a single printed page, allowing two songs to be viewed side-by-side within the open binder. By the time we gather for group rehearsal, I know each song inside and out, along with most of the parts of the other instruments and vocalists.

What is wrong with me, you ask? I know, it’s somewhat amusing. But in my reality, that’s how I function best. I’m significantly prepared, which affords confidence that I have the necessary information to perform my role appropriately and adjust should it become necessary.

So, with nearly one thousand words of set-up, we finally arrive where the thought process began:

Are You Ready?

Whether we know it or not, whether we are intentional about it or not, whether we are good at it or not, all of us at some point prepare for something. What should I wear? How do I look? What am I going to do this weekend? How do I finish all my work so I can have some leisure time? We prepare, train and practice for all sorts of things. We study for tests. We train for sports activities. We review data and statistics and scenarios in advance of presentations. At some level, no matter how basic or disheveled, preparation still occurs.

Jesus talked about “getting ready” in Luke 14:

“28b …For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? 29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

31 Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? 32 And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away.”

Time for a little self-examination. When you are put on the spot, and faced with a situation that requires you to either confess or collapse, have you prepared? Do you claim Christ as your savior and lord? Have you fully surrendered? Do you truly want to live for Him? Do you fully understand what it takes to please Him?

When Jesus spoke about “getting ready” in Luke 14, the context was in reference to being His disciple. At that point in His time in the flesh, many people had either witnessed great things or heard about them. The evidence of His power and majesty was very compelling to a lot of them – they wanted to follow Him. It was His intent to make it clearly known what that meant – it was almost a warning. The previous text is book-ended with a few verses that provide the proper context.

At the beginning, verses 25-28a:

“25 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. 28a But don’t begin until you count the cost.”

And after the illustrations of the building contractor and the warring king, Jesus brings it home:

33 “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.”

So, the question is this: ARE YOU READY?

In Part II, we’ll dive into specific areas where we are called to “be ready”.

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