Thursday, April 7, 2011

Desirably Difficult

Very often, we want our lives to be easier. We want things to be convenient, accessible, and user-friendly. For example, if you went to an important presentation, you might be really frustrated if someone gave you an outline of it that was organized differently from the actually presentation. You might think they were out to get you or playing a joke. 
However, when some researchers gave some of their students outlines consistent with the paper they would read and others inconsistent, something different happened. When it came to memory, the consistent outline was superior. When the students were required to solve problems with the knowledge they had gained, seeing an inconsistent outline was actually more advantageous (Mannes & Kintsch, 1987). Although the inconsistently organized information was more difficult, the end result was better than that which was easier.
In Matthew 7, Jesus talked to his followers about adding some difficulty in their walk. He presents an analogy suggesting putting his words to practice in one’s life is like building a house on a strong foundation. When the inevitable storm of life comes, the house stands firm. By contrast, hearing Jesus’ words and not putting them into practice is like building one’s house on an insecure foundation. In this situation, the house will not stand through the trials of life and is destroyed.
It seems to me that many Christians have interpreted this portion of Matthew 7 to mean that putting one’s faith in Christ is a firm foundation. I do not think that is necessarily incorrect, but it seems to me that Jesus is saying something else. Jesus suggests that actively putting his words into practice is a firm foundation. However, rock is much harder than sand, therefore building on a rock would likely be much more difficult than sand. 
One way that Christians traditionally have practiced difficulty is during the season of Lent. During this time, one may choose to abstain from something as an exercise in remembering the difficulty that Jesus encountered in his life. Of course practicing lent is not the only way to encounter difficulty, usually it just happens. When it does, I think it is useful to think that I am just securing that strong foundation, knowing it will be better if it is strong.

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