Why do I pray?
Why do I fast?
Why do I go to church?
If I do not have a good reason for doing these things (as opposed to a bad reason, or no reason), sooner or later they will become empty, meaningless actions and eventually, my common sense will say to me, “What’s the point? Stop wasting your time!”
There are many bad reasons for doing good things, some of them obvious, some very subtle and difficult to detect. The obvious bad reasons for doing good things include pride, showing off, fear of punishment and dry habit without any love.
But one of the most subtle of tricks is confusion between reasons and busyness. It is not hard to get these two things mixed up. We can get so caught up and interested in the details of what we do that we actually forget why we are doing it – the details become the reason, and a bad reason at that.
An example: consider a deacon learning a complex ‘lahn’ (hymn) or a member of a choir learning hymns for an upcoming celebration. Immersed in the fine variations of the notes and tune, the challenge of getting it right becomes the goal, the reason for doing it. Performing the hymn becomes a goal in itself, even without the element of prayer or praising God. They have fallen into the trap of confusing the busyness of doing something with the reason for doing it!
It is not uncommon for us become engrossed in whether or not we have memorised the words of the prayer, or the beauty of a tune, or in the fine meaning of a Bible verse, only to find that the love has gone out of the exercise. It may be exciting, but spiritually, it is dead.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we shouldn’t memorise or enjoy our spiritual activities. What I am saying is that this enjoyment should never be more than a tool I use for enjoying God Himself. The moment I lose sight of God and instead enjoy only the tools that are supposed to lead me to Him, I become terribly and sadly confused. Imagine if Michelangelo had stopped painting the Sistine Chapel because he couldn’t take his eyes off his paintbrush! Or if Beethoven had become so interested in the paint on his piano that he forgot to write any music!
God is beautiful. Unimaginably beautiful. And, He loves me. Enough to create this beautiful world for me, and enough to die on the Cross for me. That should be reason enough for anyone. In a way, it’s really quite hard to understand why anyone should get confused …