So one of the things that I at the same time relish and despise is mowing my yard.
I hate mowing my yard because as I am sweating out the grind of mowing, I cannot help but noticed every divot and brown spot. Every patch of crab grass seems like an acre, every weed seems to be ready to spawn an army of its kind. And so I push the heavy mower up and down the awkward hills of my yard, becoming more and more depressed with each line.
As I mow, all I can see is the little picture. I focus on the next five feet so that my lines stay straight. Even if my grass is marred with mange and discoloration, at least my lines will be straight! And so the hour long process kills me. It plays against my awkward, half-butted perfectionism – which is obviously the most awkward form of perfectionism.
Every stray tissue, every pile of dog feces, every ant hill feels like an indictment.
And so, I trudge towards the finish line, where I put away the mower and sit on the porch enjoying a cold beverage. As I do this, something happens. I eventually stop sweating. But even more important, I start to look out over the yard and something dawns on me. It’s actually not that bad. From the vantage point of my chair, I can see the big picture. My yard is kind of nice.
The crab grass seems to have disappeared; the weeds can’t be seen. The brown spots seem to have shrank and I can’t find any dog crap. The lines that looked slightly crooked as I mowed look like they have been laid out with geometric precision.
And so many times, life is just like this. As we work our way though a difficult season, all we can see is the problems. And even worse, the problems seemed to be magnified by the proximity. And yet instead of trusting that the bigger picture is more beautiful than I can imagine, I rage against God. I am upset that he won’t give me what I want; that he won’t rescue me from my discomfort. How dare he have something bigger in store?
This morning, I read a quote by TIm Keller that sums up my selfishness:
Jesus says, I will not be hurried because I love you. I know what I am doing. And if you try and impose your understanding of schedule and timing on my, you will struggle to feel loved by me.
Though the summer is still hot, the calendar is approaching September and approaching the football season. This time of year, everyone is an optimist. Every team has a shot. My team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, got rid of their coach, general manager, and just about every veteran on the team; but hey, there is still hope. Even with my ironclad devotion to the Tampa Bucs, I am also terribly fascinated by another character in the NFL. Bill Belichick. His sense of fashion is classic. He often wears a hoodie that he has cut the sleeves off of as he patrols the New England sidelines. This outfit is so closely tied to his persona that he is often referred to simply as “The Hoodie.” He is the only head coach not to be a part of the NFL Head Coaches Association. The only one. (Incidentally this is why his name doesn’t show up on Madden.) He is also famous for his clandestine demeanor. He has been proven to bend the rules (to say the least) and is often vague with his injury reports (Tom Brady showed up every week of 2007 with a phantom shoulder injury). Bet even more intriguing than all of this is his personal philosophy that works its way out in press conferences. When asked about Tom Brady’s injury, he gave a certain response. When his team won every regular season game, every playoff game and lost the Superbowl, he gave the same response.
It is what it is.
What an interesting phrase. It has become a pop-culture phenomenon. It rears its head in all kinds of places. Sports stars, starlets, and fortune cookies; the phrase has taken on a life of its own and has even been brought to life in Christian circles.
The problem with the phrase, especially as it applies to Christianity, is that it is patently anti-christian. It is fatalism. It is paganism. It shows itself in other religions. In Islam, it is Kismet. In traditional Japanese religion it is Shikata ga na. Douglas McCollam of Slate magazine sites the first western use of the phrase to John Locke in An Essay concerning Human Understanding. [On a tangent regarding John Locke the scarier character when compared to Ben. Conniving as Ben is, he is still haunted by his bad decisions. John is not. What is the difference? For John, “It is what it is”.]
As it relates to Christianity we are determinists, that is to say that we do believe that God has ordained all that has come to pass, but the beauty of the Gospel is that we are not fatalist. We can look in the face of both the concentration camps of the Nazis and the firebombing of Dresden by the allies and see evil. And though God has set those things in order, they are not ok. They are not permissible.
We have bought into a revisionist sovereignty. If it happens, God is ok with it. Just because God allows something, doesn’t mean it pleases Him in a moral sense.
Too often we as Christians use “It is what it is” to justify things. It is a way of saying love it or leave it, but you can’t leave it. We use the phrase as a way to say go with the flow. This idea, this philosophy ignores the cross. The way things are are not how they are going to be. We live in a time, after the cross, where we can identify evil and even minor injustice and see Christ change them with the power of the cross. However if we simply allow them to be, they will continue
Instead of focusing on what is, we need to focus on what can be.