After barricading my classroom door and windows, I looked down at my Hawaiian shirt and thought, ” of all days to possibly die, it had to be Tropical Shirt Tuesday.”
Less than five minutes earlier, I had been walking back to class after a fire drill. Within that short period of time, I heard the call for lockdown, gathered my students in my room, received the text above, and barricaded every possible entry point. In less than five minutes, I went from joking with my students to legitimately contemplating the possibility of facing death. Facing death in a stupid Hawaiian shirt no less.
Things can go bad very quickly.
When the SWAT text came, I put my plan into action: Two of my long wooden tables were flipped up and pressed against the windows of my room, blocking any view from the outside; another table was jammed into the doorway along with two desks, further strengthening my already locked door; a small collection of metal pipes that had broken off the various desks over the years were pulled out of my drawer and dropped on my desk, along with instructions to my students to use them if it came to that. I stood by the door, listening, hoping that unthinkable moment would not come, a metal pipe in my hand, just in case. This flurry of activity made my students realize how serious I and the situation was.
Even though the lockdown turned out to be an unfulfilled threat without any real genuine danger, I had a plan in place. When I moved into my current room three years earlier, I formulated a lockdown plan based on my location and the layout of my room, and when the time came, I executed it. This isn’t to brag or make me out as some kind of master of preparation – this is simply to demonstrate that I took the time to formulate a plan. And that plan worked. In the days that followed I received emails from multiple parents about how their kids said they felt reassured and safe because I was so prepared, and as I felt the noxious fumes of pride beginning to seep into my nostrils, I felt a much stronger sensation deep in my spirit: “Why don’t you put that much thought into time with me?“
Too often in my spiritual life, I am passive instead of prepared.
Preparedness reveals your priorities. When you go on vacation, you check the weather, plan your route, research activities and places to eat, then gather the supplies necessary to create the best possible experience. When you go to a music festival or sporting event you print out your tickets and try to get to the venue early to ensure you get good seats and have plenty of time to get the things you need. Why do I not put the same level of thought into my day? Why do I continually fail to make adequate time to get my mind and my spirit connected to God before facing the world? Because I haven’t made it enough of a priority.
I cannot prepare myself and be passive at the same time. I feel that too often in the Christian life we believers fall into this trap of assuming that we don’t have to strive because God “has our back.” We expect our hearts to always naturally incline towards God, yet our natural tendency is to decline in the opposite way. The apostle Paul had this problem (detailed in Romans 7:15-20), and it is indicative of our deep arrogance to assume we won’t have it. Relationships take work, and our relationship with God isn’t something that will happen by accident.
Oswald Chambers said that you have to “work out” what God “works in” you to exhibit the evidence of a life devoted to God. One of the laws of the universe is the Law of Entropy or the Law of Decay – essentially things will inevitably decline over time and nothing can be done to stop it. You can work tirelessly to stop this, but decay will always win. For some reason, a lot of us think our relationship with God is immune to this. If we fail to work on this, if we never prepare ourselves spiritually for time with God or for the things we face in this world, all things will decline.
If I find myself repeatedly struggling with things like anxiety, frustration, anger, taking my thoughts captive, or loving people well, solutions to those problems are not going to magically appear out of the ether, nor is God going to grant me victory over those things if we have no real relationship to speak of in the first place. I think back on my time playing football. If I listened to my coaches, they knew what the other team was doing on a given play or in a given formation, and if I took their insight and instruction to heart, I would be adequately prepared when that play or moment came. I would be a fool to not approach my life with God in the same manner.
Am I working with the ultimate coach and guide to be prepared when the storms and temptations of this world come? Or will I continue to just simply react and hope for the best (and often fail)?
Without preparation and training with God, we can have no real victory in the world. Christ has already overcome the world, so let’s prepare at the feet of the master.