Reece, my grandnephew (age four), said to me the other day, “I have two tummies. One for regular food and one for dessert.” He goes on to tell me that often his regular tummy is full, but he almost always has room in his dessert tummy. He even points to the two tummies on his little abdomen. The regular tummy is on the right side, the dessert tummy is on the left, in case you wanted to know. Reece is quite serious as he explains all of this to me.
I smile. Though he is so young, he has already devised a way to get what he wants, namely, dessert, and to avoid what he doesn’t want at times: regular food. The invention of the two tummies gives him a “way out” when his parents tell him he has to finish his carrots before he can have a cookie. He just says, “My tummy is full. But I have room in my dessert tummy!” Unfortunately for Reece, his parents don’t buy it!
But as I reflected on this I thought: don’t we adults do the same thing at times? Don’t we devise ways to get what we want and to avoid what we don’t want?
This Irish proverb says it well: “The church is near, but the road is icy. The pub is far, but I’ll walk very carefully!”
A few other examples might help. We don’t have fifteen minutes to pray, but we do have an hour to surf the internet. We don’t have time to have that serious conversation with a family member, but we do have time to play golf or go to the mall. We don’t have time to visit that lonely relative in a nursing home, but we do have time to watch TV or read that novel. I am not saying that surfing the internet, playing golf, going to the mall, watching TV, or reading a novel are wrong. I am just saying we must periodically take stock of what we are choosing to do with the 24 hours we have been given each day–and what we might be avoiding. And we must be honest with ourselves.
A good question to ask is this: who keeps me honest? Who won’t let me get away with convoluted thinking that supports only what I want to do and not what my responsibilities might be calling me to do? Who challenges my rationalizations that allow me to opt only for my personal preferences instead of choosing to do what God might be calling me to do? (Of course, remember: there are times when what I want to do is precisely what God might be calling me to do!)
Jesus was incredibly honest with himself. He sincerely liked children, so he made time to play with them–even though it scandalized some of his disciples. He overtly expressed his anger towards the hypocritical religious leaders–even though it would eventually lead to his death. He openly wept at Lazarus’ tomb instead of holding back his intense grief. And in Gethsemane, he was honest with God, begging “Abba” to take away the awful death he was about to face–but then adding, “Not my will but yours be done.”
Who keeps me honest? Good friends will. A good spouse will. A good spiritual director will. And children will too. Good prayer will–and even God will! God has an uncanny way of providing situations in our life that will help to keep us honest with ourselves.
So the next time you tell someone you have two tummies–one for regular food and one for dessert–or that the church is near but the road is icy–I hope there’s someone in your life who won’t let you get away with it!
Who keeps you honest?