By Logan Nicholson
One by one, the high school students disappeared through the cave wall. That mud-encrusted hole is tricky to negotiate. You have to work your way past obtrusive cave formations to reach it, search for foot and handholds that you can’t see, face claustrophobia, and then encounter the drop. Exploring beyond that hole wasn’t required, and yet they chose to go through, knowing only what we told them about the next room and understanding that my co-leader was willing to go through first.
“If you are up for a challenge you can go through the hole in the wall.”
“What’s in there?” they asked.
“You will have to find out for yourself, but it’s worth it.”
Hesitant and debating among themselves whether or not to try it, one stood up to declare, “I am going through;” then another, “I’m going with you!” Soon I stood with the last two, who had stated emphatically that they would not go through that hole.
The last courageous camper slithered out of sight and silence enshrouded the room where I stood with the two remaining campers. Then came a shifting of feet squishing in the mud.
“My feet are going to get stuck, and I won’t be able to make it out of here. It’s a good thing I didn’t go in there!” one of the young men rationalized. (The voices from the other side began to fade into the distance.) “They must be going a long way. Are they coming back this way?”
“What do you think?” I responded.
“I think they are coming back. It’s a good thing I didn’t go ‘cause then I would just have to come back. I just had surgery on my back, and I can’t re-injure it.”
“Wow! I didn’t know you had back surgery. What was wrong?” I asked knowing that I certainly would have seen it on his medical forms if this had been the case.
“Well it wasn’t really surgery, but the chiropractor said my back was injured and he fixed it, but he told me to avoid stuff like this for a while.”
I smiled to myself as the excuses continued to flow: He didn’t want to get his dad’s flashlight muddy. He thought there might be water, and he didn’t want to get wet. He could just find out from the others what it was like, and so on. In the midst of the excuses he stopped and said, “Fine, I’m going in!” but then his friend talked him out of it and the excuses started up again. I lost count after seventeen individual excuses.
Listening to this young man struggle, I knew that he was fully able to do what I had asked of him. I knew both the challenge and the reward that lay ahead, and I knew his excuses masked his choice not to step out in faith. He made excuses, successfully convincing himself that he really was not able to go through that hole. Excuses would have been unnecessary had he not already decided not to it.
I am convinced the Christian walk presents similar situations. There are many points along the journey where the road gets scary, the way looks difficult, and we have to make a choice. Will I be obedient to the Lord and let Him lead, or will I choose my own way? The only difference between the cave scenario and the choices we face is perhaps in degree. Our challenge may be much more risky but our reward much greater.
In Luke chapter 14, we hear a similar story about a man who sent out invitations to many for a great banquet. When the time for the banquet came, he sent for those invited and told them to “Come, for everything is now ready” (v. 17). One by one though, “they all alike began to make excuses” (v. 18). One just got married, another had to work, and still another needed to inspect a new purchase he had made. These excuses aren’t that different from those boys’ or from the ones you and I make.
How many opportunities to share the gospel have I missed, making excuses? “I might offend them,” or “I can live a good life, and that will be my witness.” How many opportunities to show hospitality have I passed up, with false claims? “My house is too dirty, and I didn’t plan anything for supper.” How many potential missionaries refused God’s calling. “I can be a missionary right here,” or “Someone else will do it.” How many believers never give money to support outreach? “I give to the church… sometimes,” or “I can’t afford it!” How many of us don’t visit the sick or teach the young or study their Bible? “That is the pastor’s job.” Or one of the easiest excuses of all, “I’m too busy.”
Excuses are no less than lies that we tell ourselves to justify avoiding what we don’t want to do. Excuses are lies that we tell others to preserve their perception of us. We use excuses to feel safe and comfortable when, in reality, they actually prevent us from experiencing and receiving the greatest reward—a life of adventure with Christ leading us.
The antidote to any lie is truth. The truth is that when God calls us to do something—no matter how impossible it seems to us or how many barriers we see in the path—we are without excuse because God has issued an invitation into something bigger and deeper and better than we could imagine, and He will make a way in what He calls us to.
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.