Not that long ago, I was in a restaurant bathroom about ready to go back to my table and finish lunch with my family. Standing at the sink, I stuck my hand under the soap dispenser and soap automatically dropped into my hand.
I started rubbing my hands together to spread out the soap and I put them under the faucet, but nothing happened. No water came out, not even a drop.
I concluded that my hands weren’t in the right spot to activate the sensor. So, as they were clasped together, I started to move them around. Slightly to the right. Slightly to the left. Up. Down.
Nothing. No water.
Then, I unclasped my hands and moved them around, thinking I had a better chance to activate the sensor if they weren’t connected together. Still, nothing.
Concluding that the sensor on the faucet was broken I moved to the sink next to me and tried again. But the result was the same.
Starting to get frustrated, with soap dripping off my hands, I gave one last-ditch effort. I put one hand underneath one faucet, and another hand underneath the other faucet, and moved them faster and more vigorously.
Still, no water came out! About ready to walk out of the bathroom to make a complaint to the restaurant owner, I made a huge realization. The faucet was not an automatic faucet! It was a manual faucet that I had to turn on with my own hand.
I felt stupid and foolish. I also felt bad for all the mean things I was thinking about the restaurant manager and employees. I regained my cool while rinsing off my hands. But then, almost went through the exact same cycle when it came to drying them.
I stuck my hands underneath the paper towel dispenser expecting the paper towel to automatically slide out, but nothing happened. I was just about to start flailing my hands around when I thought to myself, “Check and see if there’s a lever.” Sure enough, there was.
As I left the bathroom and walked back to my table, I was struck by what had just happened to me. I realized how much I’ve been conditioned for convenience. I’m conditioned for things to be immediate, automatic, and easy. I expect quick and fantastic results with little to no effort.
And, if I’m honest with myself, it’s not just with faucets and paper towel dispensers in bathrooms. Nor is it confined to the convenience of microwaves, fast food, the internet in my pocket, Amazon Prime, or the countless other ways I expect things to be done for me. It’s also true in my relationship with Jesus.
There are times I expect following Jesus to be easy and convenient. I pray and expect Jesus will answer my prayers the way I want. I get surprised when life is difficult and things aren’t going my way.
I love the verse about giving Jesus all our heavy burdens and receiving rest from him (Matt. 11:28-29). But that’s only part of it. Jesus says quite a bit about how following him is difficult. He describes it as a narrow road (Matt. 7:14). He says that following him is costly (Luke 14:25ff). He says that people may turn on you and hate you (Matt. 10:22). And that those who want to be his disciples must first surrender everything and pick up their cross (Luke 9:23).
Following Jesus isn’t about ease and convenience. It’s not about passivity or having a prepackaged spirituality prepared for you. Nor is it about saying a prayer in order to get out of hell when you die. It’s about a relationship with Jesus. And just like any other relationship, it requires intentional engagement. It takes effort.
In John 17, during a prayer, Jesus says that eternal life is knowing God through Christ. It’s not primarily getting into heaven when we die. Nor is it necessarily about living forever. It’s about knowing Jesus, walking with Him, serving alongside Him, and engaging with Him the same way we would with our spouse, children, or a good friend.
As a pastor, I see a lot of people who engage in Christianity by simply attending church. They show up on Sunday, go through the motions, and then go home. The same could be said about their engagement with a small group or with the Bible. And just like putting your hands under a manual faucet won’t get your hands wet, walking into a church won’t automatically make you spiritual or lead to spiritual growth.
So, I guess this leads to the question, how are you currently engaging with Jesus? Are you expecting the relational work to be done for you? Or are you taking the initiative to turn on the faucet?