The Daily Flog
To commit words to any internet forum is to invite a verbal whipping. Fortunately, only stick and stones can break my bones and I’m in North Dakota where they will freeze to your hands before they reach me. Thus emboldened, I would like to clarify the overly cryptic statement I posted on that most public of forums, Facebook. I said,
“There are no right answers, only truthful ones”.
I need to be clear for my own sake really because these thoughts show up like hulks from the WWF and I wrestle them down for months. I am a right answer girl and it has very nearly ruined my life. I love right answers. I graduated from high school with a 4.2. I used to love to fill in those little sheets of paper at church, the ones with the blank spaces that coincide with the sermon. And I have spent much of my life believing that I knew what most people ought to do, including myself.
So there is this parable in Matthew 21: 29-31 about the son who says no to his father when his services are requested in the vineyard. He then changes his mind and does the work. The second son says yes and never gets around to it.
We assume that he has given the wrong answer. He said no. To his father. For shame. I say he was truthful. He didn’t want to go to the vineyard and work. The father accepts his answer too, apparently. There is no verse saying,” And lo the father was grieved in his heart and said to his son, “After all I have done for you, this is how you do me? Really? And what about your poor mother, after all she has been through?” The son, thusly filled with a sense of his guilt, works the vineyard and is then accepted back as a good son.” Both father and son seem pretty chill about the whole thing.
The father asks the second son. He say, “Sure! I’ll do it!” He didn’t want to either. But he got credit and scored against his brother. He could always just make excuses later. I imagine him saying, “I am so sorry. (point for apology) I couldn’t get around to it. I had to…. (insert something vague but urgent sounding).
I notice that the father does not take on the responsibility for either of the son’s answers. He doesn’t praise the “good son” either. I would have wanted to say, “It is so nice to have at least one kid that does what I ask him.” Only he wouldn’t have.
But then Jesus pulls the old switcheroo and the “bad” son does the work of his own accord because he wants to. Not because he has to.
I have found that every time I say yes when I really mean no or want to say no, I am lying to myself and to whomever I have just committed to. Lying. I am one person on the inside and another on the outside. It doesn’t mean that what I have committed to is bad, usually the opposite.
Reminds me of a friend who kept trying to quit smoking. She begged God to free her. She would say, “I hate these cigarettes. They are ruining my life.” Finally God raised one eyebrow in skepticism (gentle skepticism, I’m sure) and said, “Really?” in a less than convinced voice, “Whatever.”
She thought about it and said, “Well, actually, they are pretty awesome.” Fortunately I always knew the right answer to this question and never started smoking and so God laid his hand on me and said, “Good and faithful servant, your lungs thank you.”
Anyway. She really did want to quit but she loved the way smoking made her feel. She felt led to give them up for three days and she was healed of her addiction. She was saved by her wrong answer, the truthful one.
We are set free by truth not right answers. Right answers can save us some trouble, for sure. But the Truth sets us free indeed.