Let’s face it, we do a lot of things because of how they look, not necessarily because they accomplish something important. Or noble. Or transformational.
The symbol becomes our righteousness. The event. Our intent. The photo album. The Twitter posts.
And some of that stirs my cynicism.
I’m in day four of Honduras detox. Still feeling the physical fatigue and spiritual weariness of 8 days amongst the least of these on the northern coast of that beautiful country. And I’m wrestling some deep questions:
If our lives are just the sum total of special events, what are they really?
If mercy is confined to a week in June, is it really mercy?
Is a plantain a fruit or a starch? They look like bananas, but they sure do taste like potatoes. (Not all my questions are apparently so deep).
Short-term ministry trips have gotten some valid criticism in my social circles. They don’t really make a sustainable difference. They simply feed the American fix-you ego. The $1,500 travel expense would be more effective invested in long-term initiatives. It’s just a self-righteous photo-op. It’s nothing more than episodic compassion.
There’s some truth in there. Some real dangers. Worthy tensions to embrace.
Attending a weekly church service doesn’t make you a follower of Jesus, taking your wife out for dinner doesn’t mean you have an intimate marriage, and spending a week among the poor in La Ceiba, Honduras doesn’t place an completion sticker on your Great Commission chart.
But these events, these coordinated efforts, these “episodes,” can be powerful triggers for long-term transformation if we allow them to be a means, and never an end.
I know 22 people who are siphoning through what 8 days in Honduras means for them today. For their right now. For this very moment. Twenty-two people who have re-entered normal with a new sense of normalcy. Twenty-two people refusing to allow this “episode” to be a momentary high on the road they were already traveling, but contending to make it a starting point on a completely new adventure. A Kingdom adventure.
And that kind of awakening has no price tag.
What events have triggered long-term transformation in you?