Devotion: How adding 3 little letters will change life’s biggest question

  • At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:20 & Mark 1:18
  • And immediately, they left the boat and their father and followed him.  Matthew 4:22 & Mark 1:20
  • They pulled their boats on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:11
  • Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:28IMG_8418

When I started to share with people my desire to leave an established church and a traditional pastorate for the risky endeavor of missional living and church planting, I would have this twinge of anxiety before I dropped the news.  Frustratingly, every single person respond with some form of a supportive and affirmative: “of course, why not?”

It was frustrating because I wanted someone to articulate the inner anxiety I was struggling with and ask me, “Why?”  Why leave a position that paid more, guaranteed retirement, provided many opportunities for promotions and ladder-climbing growth, an excellent daycare for my children, a fun staff, a supportive community…why leave?

Ultimately, though, it came down to what everyone else knew before me…asking “Why” is often the wrong question, instead we should be asking, “Why not.”

Why not build upon the firm foundation God had provided through those 6 years, and leap into the unknown currents of church planting?

For the disciples, all of them made a split second decision; they didn’t ask for more information, for Jesus’ pro forma, lifetime guarantee…they simply looked at the man and asked themselves, “Why Not?”

Asking ourselves, “Why” often leaves us stuck in the paralysis-of-analysis.  Asking “why not” forces us to think up one good reason, and if we cannot, then its time to put on our big boy pants and get going.

The Jesuits call this stage of spiritual development “Healthy Indifference.”  It is the result of a long and arduous process of self-awareness.  Once we catch a glimpse of who we are (and who God is in relation to us), we are able to have a healthy indifference to the stuff of this world.

Embracing this “healthy indifference” creates a freedom from attachments to places and posessions because those attachments often result in a resistance to movement or change. Father Jim Martin, SJ, says “Detachment, freedom and a sense of humor are the signposts on the road to holiness…”  Asking “why not” gets on that road.

In the great book of Job, we see the protagonist and his friends asking “why” after he’d lost every possession and relationship—however, when God speaks (Chapter 38-42), God tells Job to pull up his pants and get ready to answer “why not?” Asking “why” over and over again left Job and his friends wallowing on an ash heap…asking “why not” reunited Job and God, and gave Job a redo in life.

Asking “why?” leaves us trapped, but asking “why not?” frees us for an adventure.

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When I was in college, a group of friends and I decided that we should travel to Memphis for a concert, but unfortunately, we had to be back within 36 hours.  Without much thought…honestly, I figured TN was just a few hours away, failing to realize how large the state is and that Memphis was on the other side…9 of us piled into my Pathfinder.  Why not?

After college, my father had recommended that Lindsay and I wait to get married so that we could settle into post-college life…and we waited a whole 4 months.  Why not?

When the job that I wanted, rented an apartment nearby and should have gotten fell through and I was left desperately unemployed, I started cold calling and stumbled into a job I didn’t feel qualified for.  Why not?

The day that we learned that God was going to give us three babies in one pregnancy, I stayed up until 2:30am “discussing” with God “why” when all He would say in return: Why not?

When I struggled to comprehend one of my son’s diagnosis and went weeping and running 7 miles, God kept trying to break through my bitterness with the promise that He had taken us this far and just to trust Him to take us further.  Why not?

Run 35 miles in a van with 5 other guys in under 30 hours; bike 208 miles around on a 3 mile course; climb two 14ers in one afternoon; race a half-ironman; do another marathon; free climb that mountain; explore that trail that led to the most pristine waterfall; jump off that bridge into the lake; spend the entire day playing capture the flag with my kids. Why not?

Often the greatest adventures begin not with an answer to the question, “why” but the curious desire to discover “why not.”

At the end of a great movie, We Bought a Zoo, we discover that the road that lead to their family’s great adventure began with a chance encounter and the lines:

  • Benjamin Mee: Why would an amazing woman like you even talk to someone like me?
  • Katherine Mee: Why not?

—Disclaimer—

Ignatius is clear in that asking “Why Not” only works when the decision is between two “goods.”  Ie. it is not effective when asking: “Should I have an affair?” or “Should I kill this person?” or “Should I read Wes’ blog in its entirety?”

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