It was early on Tuesday that my nephew Ryan came to visit me. Ryan is my favorite nephew, he’s my only nephew, and a chance to visit with him is always a pleasure. However, Ryan’s visit wasn’t just a nice social visit. He was troubled with something that in one respect I knew very little about; women. But since I am the boy’s uncle and I have always encouraged my niece and nephew to ask me anything they desired Ryan choose to consult me about to him a major problem. (It must be said that he had also talked to a lot of his friends and other adults before he resorted to asking his poor old Uncle Lawrence about women.)
“Well Ryan, you know that as far as women are concerned, I am hardly an expert but I think I can shed some light on what is troubling you. Let me tell you something that I learned in high school.”
“Does this concern girls Uncle Lawrence,” asked Ryan a little excited that his old Uncle might divulge some kind of titillating fact from his past before the monastery. “No, but I think it goes to the heart of your problem.” I answered somewhat embarrassed by my lack of the more exciting social interactions.
“Like your Father, I ran Cross-Country and Track in high school. Now that is a sport that you can’t just join and rely on natural talent alone to achieve much success. I started to run distances during the early summer in anticipation for the season in the Fall. That Spring I had been a manager for the Track team and after running back and forth from the school building to get supplies the coach said I had a nice stride and should try out for the team. I had never been on a school team before so I decided to start my training slow and build up to the longer distances.
By Fall I was running more than the other runners who had been on the team for years and actually became the top runner. While the other runners had been having fun all summer I had been working hard. We all practiced during the season but it was I that won the races.”
“But is this advice about girls Uncle Lawrence?” asked a quizzical Ryan. “I’ll get to it soon.” I realized the attention span of young people is not very long.” Our team won our share of meets and soon not only the other members of the team but the entire school was associating themselves with our success. That was unsettling in my mind. Here I had put in the long miles during the hot summer heat and now everyone was enjoying the success when they had not really earned it.
“Wasn’t that jealousy Uncle?” asked a smiling Ryan. That kid always had an ornery streak in him and now he sensed a slight “sin” in his “holy” uncle.
“Maybe,” I said smiling, “but I thought it was more a matter of justice. In my mind I deserved more than the others because I had done more work. But then the Lord began to show me the truth. The others only wanted to enjoy the fruits without doing any planting. They wanted the rewards without any commitment to the rigors of work or self- discipline. Actually, all they could enjoy was a false sense of victory: a virtual victory.”
I said smiling thinking that I had just made a very “now” statement. Ignoring my self-satisfied pun Ryan looked a little disturbed.
“But Uncle Lawrence, what does this have to do with my not knowing how to handled my relationship with my girlfriend?”
“So often people want the glory without the suffering. What they don’t realize is that the suffering allows them to experience real glory. Just wearing a Jersey of a champion does not make you a champion no matter how much you wish to identify with them. The act of committing to a road of suffering and sacrifice is the only way to enjoy the rewards. In my world of religion, I find many people, especially now a days, who just want to “date” God. They want the little trills of going to church or reading an inspirational work or listening to a bit of religious music and think that is all they need to sustain them in the contest of life. But just as the spectators who watched me run, they only know from the outside what it is to live for God. They do not sacrifice the pleasures of doing what they want, when they want in order to win the prize of eternal life from God. Nor do they understand that the prizes are the result of the training and not just the prizes for “winning”. Any relationship, be it between a participate and a sport, between God and you or between a girl and a boy, comes down to how committed are you to making it work. And you will find that it is in the working that you become the winner. Remember; never settle for merely being a spectator in life. Don’t just live in a “virtual” relationship with God or a girl. Make it real by giving of yourself and then you will enjoy the full rewards.”
Ryan was looking down at his shoes now seemingly looking for the answers there but I knew he was listening to the Spirit of God as has so often happened when someone comes to me with a problem. I know that it is not I that they really hear but the voice of God for whom I have worked at being a spokesman.
He gave me a hug and said, “I have to go and do something Uncle Lawrence. I love you.” And with that he was gone.” I never heard what the result was of that one conversation.”
Brother Lawrence told me later. “But if he was really listening to the voice of God then what he heard was only the start of living a ‘real’ existence.” Now dear reader I ask you if you are living a virtual existence? Are you merely “dating” God or are you committed to service for all eternity for that is the long your true life? The inspiring apostle Paul urges “… you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom.12:1)