Posted by: Kara Luker | February 27, 2011

Show me paint the fence

God’s way is perfect. Psalm 18:30a

You’ve seen karate kid, right? If not, you are missing out on one of the great movies of the 80’s and should immediately add it to your netflix queue. A brief summary just in case… A high school kid, Daniel Laruso, needs to learn karate for self-defense but can’t afford the local dojo (which happens to be where all the bad guys train anyway). He is befriended by Mr. Miyagi, an old Japanese guy who works at his apartment building, loves bonsai trees, and is willing to teach him old school karate… and life.

Insert us into this scene, except instead of wanting to learn karate to defend ourselves from motorcyle-riding high school kids with cool hair and nasty karate chops, we want to defend ourselves from the sin that is beating us down. And, in our case, it’s God showing the way; not Pat Morita. But the rest of it is pretty much the same.

There’s a pretty powerful scene that sums up our spiritual walk. Daniel has recognized Mr. Miyagi’s impressive skill, has decided that he wants to tap into it, and has agreed to trust the methods of this little old bonsai-tree-lovin’ man. But instead of learning karate, he spends days doing manual labor for Mr. Miyagi, and decides he’s fed up with his ‘training.’ If you’ve got three minutes, here’s the clip:

The problem here isn’t that Daniel’s desire to learn karate has waned or that he is physically incapable of completing his training. It is that he doubts the character of his teacher. He sees no forward progress, and elevates his own understanding above that of Mr. Miyagi. The result is discontentment, a bad attitude, and (almost) a relinquishment of his only hope of victory.

Strangely familiar. What has struck me repeatedly this past week is my sense of self-importance. I feel like I’m stuck waxing cars and painting fences when I really want to be out there doing the real training. In my mind, I know that the things he has me doing now are building the necessary strength and form to do the next step of training well, but in my heart I feel hemmed in and antsy. And, if I’m honest (which I am), I feel frustrated as all get-out, like maybe I know what I need better than God.

Here’s the thing. He has orchestrated my life and called it good. I am where he has called me to be. He has made a place for everything that matters to him at this point in time. Everything that matters to me? No. Probably not. But this is where one viewpoint or the other is going to get elevated. Unfortunately, it’s been mine lately. Which has caused me discontentment, a bad attitude, and (almost) a relinquishment of my hope of victory. Because victory of faith comes through a childlike trust in God.

Here’s the other thing. God wants way more for us than we do. He doesn’t just want us to be able to mend our bad habits, or defend ourselves from sin. He wants us to be on the offensive; to come into a full measure of freedom; to regain territory in our own lives and lead others into the same. This requires training of a different sort. The kind that doesn’t look by outward appearance or circumstance; that sees not by the natural but by the spirit. It is the kind that can grow strong in a concentration camp or a cubicle or a laundry room. There is often little to show on the outside – for a long while – because the roots are going down deep; the foundation being laid far beneath the surface. Though we say we want this kind of faith manifested in our lives, we would likely settle for a blade of grass or a dog house that we could see right away. But God knows better. Not only does he know the true desires of our hearts, but he knows what he created us for. And he is not a God of compromise.

Huh. That went a totally different direction than I was anticipating. Well, I guess what it comes down to is: Do we trust his character, no matter what the training looks like?

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