After almost two decades of parenting, I can say without a doubt that one of the most exasperating questions a child can ask is “Why?” My blood pressure jumps a few points at the thought of this question. It could be asked out of sheer curiosity: “Why is the grass green? Why is the sky blue? Why is red a color?” Or it could be asked in defiance: “Why do I have to go to bed now? Why do I have to go to school? Why don’t you treat me like an adult?”
When the question of “why” is lobbed at us, it forces us to look inward. This can be very uncomfortable, but it can also be extremely enlightening.
Jesus was a master at asking powerful questions that forced his listeners to look inward and wrestle with their own motives. In several places, he asks simple, but poignant questions, that we must wrestle with today. It is even more important to answer these questions as we head into this holiday season and are barraged with an onslaught of requests for giving to this or that charity or volunteering to serve at a holiday program or event for those less fortunate.
First question: What centers you?
In Matthew 9:20, Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is. The answer to this question will determine how you live your life more than anything else. What ever is at the center of your life will be the thing that determines how you respond to every opportunity to give or serve. What (or who) is at the center of your life? How is it informing your decisions about how you spend your time and your money?
In Matthew 6, Jesus warns of living for applause and recognition. When building up your own personal value becomes the central point of your life, you will probably find some satisfaction for a while, but it is only temporary. Someone will give a little more than you or happen to be helping out when the cameras come through and steal the applause.
At these moments we will find out what centers us.
Second question: What drives you?
In John 21, Jesus is having a very personal conversation with Peter. This happens at the end of the Gospel Narrative. Jesus has already died and rose again. Peter is still feeling the guilt of denying that he even knew Jesus in the midst of the arrest and trial. Jesus is restoring their relationship. He asks Peter the same question three times: Do you love me?
As we all get busy with shopping, preparing for guests, holiday activities, school events and more, we will be tempted to worry and fret and try to do everything we can to keep everyone else happy. This is a battle you will never win.
But when we stop and ponder Jesus’ question to Peter, we will be able to re-center and reconnect with what really matters. The question is not how much have you done for me or how many people are you making happy. The question is “do you love me?” This must be the driving force in our life. When it is, questions of “why” no longer scare us, instead they energize us.
May this holiday season bring you joy and peace.
Rev. Jason Allison is senior pastor of Terra Nova Community Church in Delaware. For information, go to www.terranovacc.com.