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What’s in a Wedge?

Will Penner

When I was growing up, most adults who talked to me about Christianity focused on the behaviors I should avoid or adopt: Don’t engage in premarital sex; set aside some quiet time with God each day—and so forth. Nothing is inherently wrong with these admonitions, but living as a disciple of Jesus Christ is more than following a simple to-do or not-to-do list. As human beings created in the image of God, our primary task is to grow more and more like Christ in every way. But wedges often get in the way.

Driving Wedges

Almost every wedge between us and other people stems from an overactive focus on our own desires: I really want to be a part of the “in crowd,” so I’ll join in the popular kids’ taunts as they pick on the “loser” or the outcast. I want to win the affections of this girl, so I’ll do and say things that may not be honorable or true in order to build up my own image and to put down the competition. In every case, our desires drive wedges between others and ourselves.

The same is true in our relationship with God. I worry more about being accepted by the guys in the locker room than in God’s eyes; so instead of following my commitment to be a virgin, I try to prove that I’m “a man” by sleeping with as many girls as I can and bragging about my sexual exploits. I know that stealing is wrong, but I justify sharing copyrighted music and videos with my friends. In every case, our desires drive wedges between God and ourselves.

Wedge-Busting

Human beings, and teenagers in particular, are prone to focus a lot of energy on themselves. Most of us think about ourselves way more than we think about anyone else, including God. And that self-centeredness is the root cause of every wedge—between God and us, between others and us.

In fact, we create most of the wedges in our lives. The steady hum of our own wants and desires drowns out the still, small voice of God, as well as the cries of those around us. The main thing that separates us from God is our own ego—our desire to act in our own self-interest. Scripture counters our selfishness, using rather destructive imagery to describe our need to “die to ourselves” and to be “crucified with Christ.” We are called to put Christ’s desires above our own, thus chipping away at the wedges that separate us from God and others. Wedge-busting is a lifelong process, but the more we rid ourselves of selfishness and self-centeredness, the more we will be open to communion with God and with humanity.

 

DIG DEEPER

Self-help gurus often say something like this: “If you show me your checkbook and your calendar, I will tell you what your priorities are.” If you use a calendar and keep track of your expenditures, take a few minutes to browse through those records. (If not, jot down how you spent most of your discretionary time and money over the past two months.) Then reflect on these questions: How much time or money was invested into your relationship with God or service to others? How much was spent to satiate your own desires? Does examining the use of your time or money reveal a wedge that is blocking your relationship with God or others? If so, what small changes can you make over the next few months to chip away at this wedge? Every couple of months, revisit these questions and check your progress.

Will Penner lives in Fairview, Tennessee, and has kids in preschool, elementary school, intermediate school, high school, and college.

—from devozine (March/April 2012). Copyright © 2012 by The Upper Room. All rights reserved.
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