God, Us, and the Trial By Staircase; Defendant: Elevators

It is insanely late, and I am ridiculously sleep deprived. Apologies in advance for any incoherentness that may appear anywhere in this note.

I was in the shower a few minutes ago, reveling in the idea that I would be squeaky-clean and asleep in bed within the next few minutes. What glorious sleep awaited me! What fanciful dreams! A solid 7 hours–!
Yeah, right. Not if God has anything to do with it. The first thing I learned from jumping on the bandwagon was that God specializes directly in reminding you that your agenda isnothing compared to what he has planned for you. That’s the first lesson of the night. Many more are to come, kiddos, so buckle your seatbelts.

My fantasies of early sleep were suddenly interrupted by a memory of something that had happened earlier today. At the time that this event occurred, it didn’t seem like a big deal at all; I lingered on it maybe for five seconds and then moved on. But when it flashed through my memory, this time it stuck.

When Levi and I got out of our math class at around 11:40-something, we were just in time to catch Nick Mertens disappearing into the elevator doors as we passed by. Let me explain something: there are three sets of three flights of stairs between my math class and the door by which we exit to the car. Thus, there is an elevator which will conveniently carry anyone who does not wish to dare the trek of concrete stairsteps to any of the three floors of his choosing.

I despise elevators. I only use them if I am pushing or pulling a very heavy cartload of some kind that cannot possibly be lugged up the stairs—except in extreme situations, such as in a very, very tall, corporate-like building within which one would most likely get very, very lost within the labyrinthine structure in trying to find the correct stairs. Anyway, I digress. Back to normal-scenario elevators.

I think elevators are the pinnacle of everything about human achievement that I hate. It’s that thought process that goes something like: “Hey, let’s take this flawlessly functioning standard (i.e., STAIRS), deem it archaic, and waste our technological advancement in replacing it with something that will cost zillions of dollars for taxpayers but will make us lots and lots of money once it becomes the new standard (i.e., ELEVATORS). What an excellent idea, Watson!” Yeah. I hate it. That and car washes, but that’s another note for another time.

There’s a little part of me that feels somewhat smug and superior walking up (or down) stairs while some sloth soul wanders aimlessly into the chrome vertical chariot next to the stairs. I take pride in putting my faith in solid structure that has been tested and proved for thousands of years. I mean, really—what a concept! Trusting something solid and connected to the earth to get you up or down! Meanwhile, what happens if your elevator stops for no reason at all? Or, what if it doesn’t stop? You’re not in control once you step inside that elevator. You might think you’re in control because you get to press the pretty little plastic light-up button that makes a cute noise when you press it…but are you really? You’re just trusting wiring and programming. Wires rust. Programs glitch.

I may or may not have shouted out to Nick Mertens that he was a lazy bum who rides elevators when only the bravest of souls were worthy of taking the stairs.

Anyway.
This is where my God metaphor comes in (this is my favorite part).

Elevator = the proverbial “flow.” The “norm.” The structure of what everyone else is doing because everyone else tells them to, because it’s the “thing,” the easy way out, the fad of the moment.

Stairs = The path of difficulty, sweat, huffing and puffing, bronchial problems, treacherous step-counting, cardio, struggle, sacrifice, and righteousness.

As God was cultivating this note in my head while I was still in the shower, frantically trying to finish my to-do-while-in-shower list while the inspiration was fresh, I realized that just about every P.E. or Conditioning class I’ve ever heard of has brutally and mercilessly enforced the utilization of stairs so long as stairs are an accessible resource in the vicinity. It’s a cardio and endurance exercise as well as a leg muscle-builder. And it probably helps your coordination, otherwise you’d fall down a lot doing so many sets.
Why stairs, though?
Why not just have us run laps around the gym or the field, all day every day, every single practice for every single sport?
What’s so unique about stairs that makes gym teachers love them—or do they just like to torture us?

Let’s imagine that you are running a lap around the track. One lap, no hurdles, no unexpected bumps or swerves. If you were dragging an enormous pencil in your path and the track was a 3-D blueprint, your path would just be one big, even, smooth oval. Nothing special there. Sure, maybe you got some cardio in. Maybe you warmed up your legs. Now do it again. “Okay,” you say, and do another lap.
Now, on the flip side, let’s tie that imaginary giant pencil behind you once more and send you off again—this time up oh, say, five levels of stairs. But they’re all in an oval-y shape too, like the track Just imagine it for a second. Now, when you’re done, what the giant pencil drew on that blueprint is going to be rough, shaky, up and down and all over the map. After ¼ of a mile of stairs, you’re probably exhausted. Maybe wheezing a little. Got some sweat on the collar of your shirt? Can’t feel your legs? Is your chest burning? Now do it again. Your first impulse is to complain, to refuse to do it—this is the brain’s instinct toward self-preservation; anything to keep you from hurting your body again. It takes a while for the brain to recognize pain as progress.

Which of the two exercises would be harder?

Which would you be more inclined to do? –Are you someone who just does things to get them over with, or are you someone who is always, always striving for self-improvement?

The track run represents a “normal” walk of life. It’s what you would be doing if you were trying to go about life on your own. Maybe you’re not really going with that majority flow, but you’re not reaching out to something greater, either. You’re content to plateau your progress once in a while if it means you don’t have to exert yourself too much.

The stair-track represents our walk with God. Most of you who I have tagged in this note know exactly what I am talking about. The road is uneven, and appears at times to be paved with hardship and struggle. Sometimes it’s pain after pain after pain, and you wonder if this is God abandoning you or God punishing you for all the stupid things you’ve done in your life. Or maybe, as my close friend said just last night, it’s a purification process: just as silver is subjected to unbelievable heat to bring all of its impurities to the surface, you could be undergoing pressure that makes you feel like you’re cracking, that all the things that make you sinful and evil at your core are bubbling, spitting, hissing up to the surface.
But it’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s a staircase going downward; you’re not gasping for breath at every turn, but you still have to watch your step, because it’s still easy to fall. You could under- or overestimate the number of steps you have left, and then stumble and trip onto your face at the very last step. You may not feel like your chest is going to explode, but it’s still not easy.
Most of the time, though, the stairs will be going up. You’ll be bent under the weight of whatever (or whoever) you’re carrying on this journey with you. Your oxygen level will be zero. You will trip. You will be forced to go back some steps. Sometimes, there’s a really fat, slow-moving person in front of you blocking your ascent up the stairs, and you will have to deal with your impatience.

And quite possibly the most devastating (or exhilarating, depending on the kind of person you are or how you look at it) thing about this journey is the end. You are drenched in sweat. You are panting, gasping and wheezing for each breath. Your muscles are weak and you know—you know–you could go no further if you were asked. The devastating/exhilarating part: as soon as you reach what you think is the peak, God tells you to turn around and do it again.

You just made your way through what could have been a crippling fight that ended your relationship. Hallelujah! Now keep rejoicing as you head into the battle involving your best friends.

You got kicked out of your house two weeks ago, and it’s been a rough move, but you’re finally stable again, and you’re finally getting enough sleep again—hurray! Now there are some vices of yours that need to be addressed; these addictions have got to stop.

As soon as we think we’re done with our mountain, God makes us conquer it again from the other side.

Why? Because our Mount Everests are anthills to God. He has so many bigger and better things planned for us with our lives; how could we live with ourselves if we just stopped where we were and decided it would be good enough?

That would be like Michael Phelps winning his first high school swim meet and saying, “I’m done. I’m content to rest in my success.” I don’t think so. Once you confess your love to Jesus and commit to letting God rule the direction of your life, you will never be done.

You know the song by Chris Tomlin. I know you do. “God of this City.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d61LamkXfwk, just in case.)
Chorus goes Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city. HELLO!

God is NEVER going to be done with you! He’s NEVER going to be done with me, and I rejoice in this! I am so filled with hope and joy and humility that he’s chosen me to be part of his plan. I mean, can I get an amen? Oh, thank you Jesus.

And if you think for a second that you could get to this point by taking the elevator of life, then you need to go back to the top of this note and read it again. Hallelujah Jesus!

That is why I hate elevators.
That is why I take the stairs.

Question is… How many of you are on the stairs with me?

‘Cause by the end, if we all take the stairs, then we are going to be ripped distance runners and it’s going to be amazing.

Thank you, Jesus.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

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