“I have a big but.” No, I didn’t misspell that last word and I am not describing an oversize portion of my anatomy. I borrowed that sentence from a humorous and thought provoking video clip that I saw on sermonspice.org. The theme of the clip was not the epidemic of obesity in America that is currently so often spoke of in the news. No, the focus of the little video is people’s dependency on excuses to explain away the lack of forward progress in our lives.
To use a play on words…borrowing a song lyric from the early 90’s- “I like big buts and I cannot lie.” We use excuses to minimize embarrassment and shame. We use excuses to cover up our lack of commitment. Not only are we vulnerable to becoming dependent upon excuses, but our excuses are affirmed by well meaning friends and acquaintances – enablers – who themselves are plagued by the same predicament. To borrow Jesus words, we have an epidemic in this world of – “the blind leading the blind.” What blinds us, deception? Nobody ever wants to be the one to say that the Emperor is naked. Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe people have a responsibility to be kind and gentle. But, as I have made mention of before, we are often guilty of sacrificing truth on the altar of politeness.
Years ago, I had a coach whose greatest impact on me was one single sentence he uttered. I paraphrase – “You don’t want to look back years from now at your playing days and describe them as “Coulda…woulda…shoulda.” In other words, he was trying to motivate us to put forth a measure of commitment and effort that would prod us to leave it all out on the field – to put forth the honest effort and hard work now, so that we would not be saddled with regrets later.
Unfortunately, when it came to football, I didn’t take his advice. I was a mediocre athlete at best. I “coulda…I woulda…I shoulda”, but I didn’t. So, I resorted to excuses…illness, injury, perceived unfair circumstances…to cover up reality. I wanted things to come easy, and when I faced adversity, instead of persevering and exercising the mental toughness to overcome obstacles, I fabricated that part of my life with excuses.
No, I’m not a merciless jerk. I understand that there are people with some very valid excuses. And without justifying myself, I know that there were some contributing factors in my life that helped develop the wrong way I thought and coped. Nevertheless, whether excuses are valid or not, they don’t help people become overcomers. They don’t help people realize that much needed sense of accomplishment that helps us maintain a healthy mental state.
Years ago, Moses delivered the Israelites from the bondage of slavery and oppression at the hands of the Egyptians. God promised the Israelites their own homeland…an abundantly productive land…its fruitfulness described in beautifully descriptive language as, “A land flowing with milk and honey.” God promised them the land, they just had to go and claim it. Yes, they would face opposition and uncomfortable circumstance. But who promised it to them? God.
One day God tells Moses to pick a scout from each of the twelve tribes to do a little reconnaissance, to get to know the lay of the land and come up with a plan of action to stake their claim. After 40 days in the land, the scouts return with their report. Faith is contagious, unfortunately, so is fear. The initial reports were good. The land was exactly what God said it would be; and two of the scouts, Joshua and Caleb, were gung ho to go take it. “BUT”…this is where the big but gets in the way…Ten of the scouts starting making excuses for not going in to claim the land. They didn’t look through the lens of God’s promise. They looked through the lens of fearful laziness. Where Joshua and Caleb saw promise and opportunity, the other scouts saw obstacles and difficulty. The excuses spread like a pandemic, hamstringing the whole Israelite encampment. Year’s later, out of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb would enter the promise land.
The greatest hindrance to momentum in my life, the one thing that has handicapped and hamstrung me the most, is listening to the wrong voice – listening to those who make excuses instead of those who speak the truth.