Not what I signed up for

I didn’t sign up for this. 

He lied to me. 

I put my entire life on hold. He promised me we would change the world. 

Progress was slow at first, but we eventually gained followers. Every time something spectacular happened, the crowds grew. As the masses expanded, so did our bank account. Fame, success, and money, what could be better than that?! 

I always considered myself one of his closest advisors. I devised a plan early on. It was simple and easy to execute. 

First, make sure the crowds keep growing. The more people you influence, the quicker your reputation will spread. If you want to reach a goal, having vast numbers of people behind you makes the journey a lot easier. Above all else, become famous! Fame unlocks the door to greatness. 

Second, amass all the power you can. Whoever is in control gets to call the shots. Communicate how you would do things differently if you were in charge. People need to believe in your ability to rule. Overthrowing a corrupt government requires a powerful response. 

Next, assure religious people that you don’t want to upset their way of life. You need these people to like you to get things done. The ends justify the means. Avoid calling out hypocrisy at all costs.

Finally, keep the money flowing. Anything worth doing takes resources. Big change happens with big amounts of cash! If something hurts the bottom line, it hurts you. You’ll never get where you want to go if your bank account doesn’t match your vision. 

Why didn’t he listen to me? 

When the crowds grew, he would say something ridiculous and let them walk away. 

Instead of performing miraculous signs when his power was challenged, he would refuse the spotlight. 

He chose to spend his time with rejects rather than developing connections with influential people. 

He reserved his harshest critiques for the religious elites he needed on his side. 

He let a woman pour expensive perfume on his feet instead of cashing in the bottle to line our coffers. His entire way of life mocked my advice. 

What was I supposed to do?

Sometimes the only way to make sure someone pays attention is to make them feel pain when they don’t. It was a bonus to make a little cash in the process.  

I knew the only way for him to get the message was to turn him over to the people he criticized. It was a brilliant strategy! In a poetic bit of justice, I would reveal his identity by kissing him. Other than that, I didn’t have to do anything. They would make him suffer for his stubborn attitude. Maybe a severe beating would snap him back to his senses. I could almost hear his voice telling me, “You were right all along!”

But it didn’t stop at the beating. 

How was I supposed to know? 

They got the government to issue him a death sentence. Crowds that cheered for him only a few days earlier were yelling for him to be crucified. I became physically ill as I watched it all unfold. This wasn’t my plan either! 

I had to do something! I ran to the religious leaders and threw the coins they gave me back at their feet. They showed no emotion. Their only response was, “Get over it.” They didn’t even acknowledge how important I was to their success.  

They lied to me. 

“Judas, what do you do now?” The thought kept rattling around my head like a fly caught inside a bottle. The only response that came to my mind was…

I didn’t sign up for this. 

I’m signing out. 

The Spirituality of Ribs

Have you ever eaten really good ribs? I’m not talking about the Applebee’s all you can eat riblet basket (not that there is anything wrong with that). I mean REALLY GOOD ribs. The kind that would make a vegetarian second guess their life choices.

Ribs prepared by a true BBQ pit master have more in common with a work of art than a meal. They don’t just leave you with a full stomach. Somehow, they find a way to fill your soul.

A few years ago, I dedicated myself to honing my skills as a ribs artist. It’s a quest I’m still engaged in to this day. After some initial experimentation, something became very clear… great ribs don’t “just happen”. Preparing a great rack of BBQ baby backs takes intentionality.

The process involves selecting the right seasonings, preparing the ribs to be seasoned, letting them marinate in the spices for at least 24 hours, cooking them “low and slow” and choosing (or making) the perfect BBQ sauce.  Yes, it takes practical know how but it also takes time… A LOT of time! The kind of time that seems ridiculous in our fast paced society.

If there is a grilled item that is antithetical to ribs it would be the hot dog. Because hot dogs are easy to cook, taste OK and can be easily crammed down our gullets in rapid succession, they have become the quintessential American cookout food (never mind that no one really knows what is in them). The Nathan’s hot dog eating competition on July 4th, started out as a novelty but now seems like a celebration of our culinary values.

As I’ve embraced the difference between grilling ribs and hot dogs, I’ve learned that anything worth savoring takes time. Some of this time seems passive, like the process of marinating, but you can’t rush it. Picking the right seasoning and then letting it do the work is essential.  Similarly, we need to seek the right environment for our souls and refuse to rush.

I’m glad God has the attitude of the ultimate pit master. He refuses to hurry. He knows the best conditions for me to thrive. Best of all, he loves me much more than anyone could ever love a rack of ribs. He feels the same about you too.

When I embrace these facts about God, it gives me a lot more patience with myself and with the people around me. I realize that most change in life doesn’t happen in the time it takes to cook a hot dog. Most deep transformation takes place over the course of weeks, months, years and decades.

In a world that shouts, NOW! and is increasingly impatient with waiting, the beautiful truth that “anything worth savoring takes time” is an important lesson to internalize in my soul.