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looking around

when i was a young boy i played midget football: a frightening and yet exhilarating experience for a young boy.  always one of the most difficult parts for me, was trying to impress the coaches.  since i already had an unhealthy tendency to need to please adults, i approached football with my regular overachieving ways.  but my football coaches made it difficult for me to succeed in my normal ways because they rarely communicated clearly, choosing instead to bark out random commands and expect us to pick up the game from these guttural syllables.  every once in a while they would pull out and brush off another tool from their coaching arsenal, and this one was the out-of-context-football-phrase-that-no-10-year-old-really-understands.   "hit the hole," they would yell, and we would just keep doing what we were doing, but trying to make it look like we were hitting some hole while we were doing it, since none of us had any real idea what hole we were supposed to be hitting. 

one of my favorite random phrases was when the coaches would interrupt their regularly programmed grunting to shout out, "keep your head on a swivel, boys!" 

what?  i had no idea what this meant. 

these last few weeks at church i've been doing a series called "looking around."  i could have just as fittingly called it "keep your head on a swivel," because the main idea was that we have to keep looking all around us if we are going to be successful Christ-followers.  i'm afraid that too often too many of us get way too focused on ourselves, on our own circumstances and feelings, our own understandings and our own comfort.  we can be like a ball carrier, getting the handoff, completely unaware of anyone around us, about to be blindsided by that huge defensive end about to drop us for a loss. 

and so to avoid this destructive self-obsession, we need to keep our heads on a swivel - we need to keep looking around.  i think there are at least 4 ways we need to look around:

first, we need to look back.  that is, we need to keep taking looks backwards to see where we've been and how God has been good to us.  we need to constantly remember the story about how we were outsiders - sinners - and God welcomed us with a wide, warm and wild embrace.  we need to be sure that we never forget where we were, so that we truly appreciate where we are, and so that we can offer that same kind of embrace to others along the way.  we must look back. 

next, we need to look into, which is to say that we need to regularly examine ourselves.  we ought to be in some sort of system of accountability, some kind of checks and balances arrangement that will help us live our lives in balance.  it is so easy to allow our busyness and our own desires to begin to shape our behavior and our attitudes until we are living life out of balance.  i find micah 6:8 a great reminder of what kind of balance our life should have: acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.  wesley's three simple rules would be another great status report.  whatever you use, just make an effort to regularly look into your own life and be sure that you are still walking the path that God called you to walk. 

third, i believe we need to keep our heads on a swivel so we can look forward.  too often we are so self-absorbed in what's going on now that we have lost all touch with where we are going.  scripture tells us that where there is no vision, the people perish.  that's not to say that we have to have everything completely spelled out, leaving no room for the guiding of the holy spirit or the changes that come our way, but it is to say that we should have an idea of where God is leading us.  we should be asking God to give us a picture of the vision, so that we can faithfully follow it.  we must look forward, because if we walk around with our heads down, we're mostly just going to be bumping into one another, not really getting anywhere. 

finally, we talked about how we need to look out.  we need to get our eyes off of ourselves and our church dinners and our social gatherings and our friends and we need to start to look out.  when we open our eyes, we discover that God keeps showing up in the most unusual places.  in fact, we read in matthew 25 that Jesus shows up in the others that we meet along the way, and so if we really want to be Christ-followers; if we really want to follow Jesus as we say we do, then we must keep looking out to find the Jesus in the "others" that we meet. 

so keep your heads on a swivel, kids!  keep looking back, looking into, looking forward and looking out - keep looking around - so that you can more faithfully live the life you've been called to live, and more passionately share it with a world desperate for it. 

ps.  big thanks to shannon for the artwork!


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