I recently made the switch from Android to iPhone. Why? Convenience.
I operate a MacBook Air as well as a MacBook Pro, so the ability for my devices to communicate directly was a huge benefit. My life is crazy enough, right? If I could streamline and make it more convenient that was a huge win.
A few days after I made the switch, I traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to speak at a conference. Armed with a new phone, I was ready to test out its capacity.
A World of Convenience
When I arrived at the airport, I downloaded the Delta app so that my boarding passes would conveniently be on my phone instead of having to dig for them in my pocket. Surprisingly, my new iPhone had already linked with my computer, so I had access to all of my previously purchased songs. Realizing that, I connected my phone to my bluetooth headset so I could listen to said music while I wrote a speech on my laptop. As soon as I landed, that document uploaded to my phone so that I could reference my speech from stage.
While walking to pick-up my pre-arranged rental car, I spoke the destination address into my phone and it navigated me directly to the site with turn-by-turn precision. Upon arrival, I realized that I had some time to kill so I asked Siri to provide a list of nearby restaurants with recommendations. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I was able to Face Time with my wife and blow a digital kiss to my one-year-old daughter, Sara James.
We live in an incredibly convenient world. On the surface, that seems to make our lives easy and simple. But there are a few inherent problems that came to mind during my recent travels that I want to press into.
What if our love of a convenient life is causing us to miss the life we’re supposed to live? More importantly, what if a convenient world is causing us to lose affection for an inconvenient God?
When Life Isn’t Convenient
As day one of the conference ended, I forwent the hotel adjacent to the conference site to stay with a good friend named Jerrod. The problem was, he lived outside of the city. After a long day, the last thing I wanted to do was ride an hour into God’s country.
But as we drove, a rich conversation ensued. We talked about God and life and passions and struggles. It was spiritual food for the soul. Before I realized it, we had arrived. When we turned off the paved road I joked that he lived in the middle of nowhere and that this felt like a rendition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But after we pulled in and he kissed his daughters goodnight he said, “Come outside, I want to show you something.”
We stepped outside into the black Oklahoma night. My eyes adjusted. Then I saw the stars—more stars than my eyes could count. The absence of ambient light created a spectacular display in the heavens.
The next morning, I stepped outside to watch daybreak over the cattle ranch beside his home. As a connoisseur of sunrises, it was incredible. Albeit much different from the coastal sunrises over the Atlantic, it held a beauty of it’s own. As I watched, it felt like I heard God say, “The same light shines on all of us.”
My friend’s house was terribly inconvenient, but it was the inconvenience that allowed me access to something greater—deep conversations with friends, the quiet stillness of an Oklahoma night, and the glorious dawning of a new day that wasn’t blocked by the convenience of the world.
The Danger in Expecting Convenience
I have to be honest, my life is incredibly convenient. I live a mile from my office, two miles from Interstate 40, three miles from the beach, and five miles from an accessible regional airport. My career affords me flexibility, we have tons of help in raising on our four children, and all the trappings that the first world affords.
But the inherent problem with convenience is that it conditions us to expect it in every area of our lives. I want my marriage to be convenient, my businesses to operate without disruption, and my faith to be readily accessible. But life isn’t convenient. Life is hard and riddled with challenges. By creating and expecting a convenient reality, I expose myself to guaranteed frustration. As my frustration builds, it robs me of peace. The absence of peace leads to stress, complaint, and anger. As a result, disappointment is always nearby.
Ironically, the things that seem to make life convenient have become the very inconveniences that disrupt my emotions on a daily basis. The danger in expecting convenience is that I have created a false sense of the way the world actually works and that makes it incredibly difficult to function well in it.
Faith Isn’t Convenient
One particular area where this facade of convenience wreaked havoc was in my faith life. For the longest time, when it came to my own personal faith development, I’m afraid I wanted convenience more than I wanted transformation. The whole “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” sounds good when you read it in Romans, but nearly impossible to engage in modern, 21st century, western Christianity.
For years, I was the Peter who stood with Jesus until He was arrested. Then, I casually warmed my hands by the fire of denial. Faith was acceptable until the point of inconvenience. In a fast-food, drive-by culture, I wanted a digestible, convenient version of God that fit into my schedule on Sundays and didn’t interfere with Fantasy Football. But as I feasted on this version of faith, it lacked the nutrients I needed to fully mature. As my circumstances continually buried me in stress and exhaustion, I had to choose another way.
It took a heavy dose of humility in the form of a cancer diagnosis that left me wrestling with my identity. But I finally learned that God isn’t convenient. He didn’t intend to be. In fact, the cross proves that convenience comes at the expense of intimacy. In Jesus, God traded intimacy with His son so that His son could become intimate with us. “They shall be called Immanuel, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)
Jesus chose the inconvenience of the world so that I could have the eternal convenience of heaven. In turn, I have to choose the inconveniences of world—I have to take up my cross, count it all joy, lose my life for His sake, and be transformed by the renewing of my mind. That’s a picture of the gospel lived out—the upside-down nature of God.
Here’s a challenging thought: How are you allowing the conveniences of the world to keep you from intimacy with God?
The Promise of Upside-Down Living
For years I bought into the lie that convenience was the goal. I wanted a convenient life, a convenient job, convenient kids, and a convenient faith. But I’ve learned, that which is convenient is rarely exceptional. That’s why an iPhone might make life convenient, but it can’t take the place of deep, meaningful relationships. I guess what I’ve learned is that convenient is common and easy. Faith is uncommon and hard. I choose the latter.
God’s convenience begins where my understanding ends. That’s the space where real perspective is forged. Convenience causes me to see the world through the lens of “What’s best for me?”. Faith challenges me to ask, “What’s best for the kingdom?”.
If you’re looking for intimacy with God, begin removing your expectations for convenience. Then, you will encounter the divine.