Avoiding … January 25, 2012

Live in Philadelphia, PA

Wouldn’t it just be a kick in the pants if the Judgment Day–that breathless, final exam–ended up being an assessment of what we avoided? I’m not talking about refraining from being a “potty mouth,” refusing to attend PG-13 movies, repressing our sexuality or even staying away from controversy for fear of being out of the loop. I’m talking about avoiding things that need to be avoided in order to make human life sensible, productive…and awesome. There are probably a bunch of them, but three immediately pop to my mind. Maybe it’s because I work on these three the most, because I find them so annoying in the DNA of our emotional riboflavin.

The first one is hiding. It is so frustrating to everyone–including yourself–if you spend any time whatsoever hiding from reality, a calling, truth or possibilities. It’s one of the first questions that God asked a human being in the Garden of Eden. “Why are you hiding from me?” Well, we know why Adam was hiding. He did something wrong, along with his wife, Eve, and they felt the best way to handle it was to hide from it. But let’s look at it realistically. If we’re playing a game of hide and seek and everyone is in the same house, then the game actually has some merit. But if the game is being played in the house but the person you’re hiding from is living in the heavens above and has the full view of everything below, where do you really think you’re going to go? In other words, for a season we may be able to hide from others, but never from ourselves and certainly not from God. Hiding is the ultimate repression–the notion that denying who and what we are will somehow put off the inevitable evaluation of the world around us concerning our character. What astounds people is when you DON’T hide and you pop out information about yourself before they have a chance to put on their thinking caps and over-process your personage.

“Hello, there. My name is Jonathan Richard Cring. I’ve been married for 41 years and had the pleasure of parenting seven children. I never went to college, am extraordinarily fat, but I do have some talents and have worked very hard at multiplying them and have had the privilege of seeing those abilities provide my livelihood and bless people around me. I have average intelligence, which means that in some ways, I am an overachiever. I am not naturally gregarious, but I have learned that it is necessary to be so to be of any use to anyone around me. I’m working very hard to not hide from myself, others and God–because the danger is that I may eventually find a hole to crawl into that I can’t escape.”

You see? It’s not that hard.

Which kind of leads me to the second thing I like to avoid: lying. See, this one is tricky–because lying, if purely defined, is anything that is absent truthfulness. Shoot, I”m like the next guy–I embellish; I over-explain. I create scenarios in my mind that are only partially true, and I offer polite compliments which are not completely on point with my actual feelings. Lying is something that I will work to avoid for the rest of my life, as I am sure all of my fellow-travelers will also have occasion to do. But the more you have truth on the inward parts, the easier it is to take a breath of fresh air without fear of being attacked from the rear by some falsehood that you’ve spread. Lying is what we do when we really think that who we are, what we believe and who we believe in is insufficient enough to cover our circumstances. It is the ultimate insecurity–the admission that we weren’t given enough, so we must come up with a story about ourselves that sounds better than the real one. How sad.

And finally, the third activity to avoid, in my mind, is judging. I have been working on this one all my life. I think it’s why we have so many shows on television now that have judges, critics and audience voting. We’re all just a bunch of frustrated grumps who have no intention of doing much of excellence ourselves and would like to just sit in a chair and evaluate the progress of others. Here’s what I know: I will never offer an opinion on anything that I have not personally done and had some measure of success in performing. Can you see how this immediately limits my potentials? It is a beautiful measuring stick. For example, if you have actually baked a cake, put on the icing and served it to the delight of your consumers, then feel free to comment on MY baked cake. If you haven’t, then please, just have your cake–and eat it, too.

But the truth of the matter is, the people who judge the most are the people who do the least. Anyone who has actually had to display their wares for consideration is not quite as “peppy” to jump in and ravage someone else’s efforts. That’s why there are pockets of gossips and judges–and some of the worst ones are in church. Because church, rather than being a seminar to produce victorious people, has become a sanitarium for debilitated patients, hacking and coughing up their disappointments and anger. But Jesus makes it clear that the judgment we put out to others will come back to us. Wow. So even though I do have enough experience in writing, music, movies and the arts to give a really intelligent view on the projects I see, over the years I have learned to spend more time admiring than reviewing.

Just stop judging. It’s exhausting–and not particularly fulfilling, either–because the only fellowship you have is with people who like to judge (and YOU are probably their next target).

So without being too presumptuous, I can tell you that if there is some final evaluation of our lives, the fact that you avoided eating meat will probably not make nearly as much difference as learning to avoid hiding, lying and judging.

Of course, I could be wrong. But I know this–I didn’t hide anything from you, and in my essay I did not lie, and if you disagree, I certainly will not judge you.


Jonathan wrote the gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, in 1985, in Guaymas, Mexico. Take a listen:


To see books written by Jonathan, click the link below! You can peruse and order if you like!


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