Switch Seats

September 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Devotions

There’s a company that makes T-shirts with spiritual themes. One of them shows an airplane being flown by a frantic pilot. The shirt says “If God is your co-pilot, switch seats.”

That’s a statement that’s simple, but sort of sums up our struggle. We often talk about how faith is hard. But I believe a certain amount of faith is really not difficult at all. The Gallup Organization of Princeton conduct surveys that consistently report that about 94 percent of Americans believe in God. It’s not hard to acknowledge God. And I don’t think it’s hard for me to make God my co-pilot.

It’s easy. Like this:

“God, you keep an eye on the horizon and the dials and gauges while I fly the plane. But you be ready in case a storm comes up or we lose an engine or the wing falls off, because then I’m gonna need you to save the day. Of course, when we have blue skies, I’ll just take over again.”

That’s not hard. What’s hard is to relinquish the wheel. At the Annunciation, Mary gives us the blueprint for a different kind of faith – the hard kind.

I’m sure Mary may have had many ideas and expectations about what her life would be like. We all do. We knew she was expecting to marry Joseph. And then this angel shows up with a message from God that lays out a whole different plan for her future.

To say that this was going to complicate her life is putting it lightly. While Scripture talked a lot about the coming of the Messiah, it didn’t include instructions for being the Messiah’s mom.

Mary is the ultimate example of a life yielded to God’s purpose. Mary puts God in the driver’s seat. But it’s one thing to see that kind of faith in a Biblical figure who lived 2,000 years ago. It’s another thing to live out that faith today, and walk in submission to God.

How do we do it? The answer begins in Mary’s story, which begins an act of grace that has the power to transform our lives. We need to remember that Jesus didn’t come just to accept the shepherds’ worship or the wise men’s gifts. We need to see the cross as well as the manger.

In John 11, Christ sums up the issue as he speaks to Martha and asks her a question:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

We all want to surrender our lives, to let go and let God, to turn over the wheel. It is in answering Christ’s question that we find the confidence to do this. Some folks resist this question. There are any number of reasons why. But no one yet has made an effective argument that eternal life is a bad idea (“I’d much prefer death and decay!”) I’ve talked with people about this, and some say “you know, with you Christian folks, it’s always this focus on salvation. Can’t I just be spiritual?”

All I know is that for a while, I tried “just being spiritual.” And what I was really doing was trying to hold onto the wheel.

To really let go of something, you need to grab hold of something else. And to help us let go of the worries of our world, God has given us the ultimate something else.

There are times when we wonder whether we matter to God, whether he really knows who we are, or cares. God responds to our doubt and our feelings of inadequacy by saying this: “Come live with me at my house. I have prepared a place for you! It’s a great house, too. And I’m not talking about a two-week lease – it’s forever! And, not only that, you can invite all your friends, too!”

“I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?”

Believe it. Switch seats. Follow Mary’s example, and make God the pilot of your life. Let go of the wheel, and grab hold of Christmas with all your strength.

These meditations were prepared by Rich Miller of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Rich is a lay speaker who attends the The Hopewell United Methodist Church in Hopewell Borough, N.J.

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