If I Don't Show Up

Some nights, before I sleep, I browse through my phone calendar. (Not the best way to deal with insomnia, I’ll admit.)

I have little reminders set up for almost every day of the month. They whisper silent jeers; I wish they weren’t there. But I put them there.

They’re mostly “faith-related”. God things – accountability, discipleship, ministry, prayer. Good things.

Once in a blue moon, I might feel pumped up for one of these. But the stars rarely align. More often than not I feel tired and overwhelmed. My weary mind asks itself:

What if I don’t show up?

What if I don’t show up for prayer meetings, or cell group, or fellowship dinners, or yet another church event? What a lovely thought. I may actually feel good about it, for a while. Maybe even lose my eyebags.

If I don’t show up the sun will still rise, and Switchfoot’s Where I Belong – the song I’ve currently set as my alarm clock tune – would still blare from my phone’s little speakers, jarring me to consciousness a little too soon.

As you may have discovered, assigning your favourite songs as your alarm tone is the surest way to change your musical taste. Yet to my amazement, Where I Belong is into its third month in the hot seat – a seasonal record. (By comparison, Matt Redman’s Your Grace Finds Me got the boot after a week and a half. This is Living lasted one day.)

DARK CLOUDS ON THE PLAINS AGAIN

Storms on the wasteland
Dark clouds on the plains again
We were born into the fight

My fingers circle wearily around the snooze button. What if I no longer want to fight? What if I don’t show up?

If I don’t show up, I may piss some people off, but weighed against the cosmic tide from eternity past to eternity future, my to-do list is a candle to the sun. It’s no fight, really. Besides, people already seemed pissed with most things in life – relationships, expectations, that new job opportunity, someone’s sickness.

If I don’t show up, I’d still have the things that matter – the family I love and friends who’d understand. My mother would still nag at me for skipping breakfast and ask if I need dinner later.

If I don’t show up, I’d be comfortable and free to read books all day, without having to knock shoulders with uptight people who think their busyness will save them. I’d have a roof over my head and food on my table.

But not everyone would.

If I don’t show up, I would be surrendering to a self-fulfilling prophecy that my life counts for nothing.

There’d still be the forgotten – hungry, hurting and broken. There’d still be great injustice, and rag-clothed children whose eyes would pass over the words of a page and get nothing out of it, because they never had the opportunity to learn to read.

There’d be people wandering through life fighting for survival. To keep their heads above the waves long enough to create progeny, whom they’d then live completely for because there is nothing else for them in this world.

They need charity. More so, justice. Even more so, they need the Way, Truth and Life. And someone’s got to point them. If I don’t show up, who will?

I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT I TRIED

Every morning, Where I Belong plays to its final chorus, and the following lines are enough for me to kick off that comfy blanket.

On the final day I die
I want to hold my head up high
I want to tell You that I tried
To live it like a song

If I don’t show up, I’d have time to fiddle on the guitar while never having to depart from my preferred posture – comfortably horizontal upon my mattress.

But art can only express the human condition, and if the caverns of my heart are empty, there’d be no song – just the echoes of a very mechanical drum. Music without soul, life without life.

In Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, senior devil Screwtape writes to Wormwood about life’s law of undulation: “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

If I don’t show up, I would be surrendering to a self-fulfilling prophecy that my life counts for nothing. I’d be squandering my potential but for Christ to live – gloriously, powerfully, beautifully – in me. That’s not a boast. That same potential exists in all of us.

The law of undulation tells us that like summer and winter, tough times will come, but the good times will too. The good fight is always worth it. So choose your alarm well, say a prayer, get up and show up.

That’s why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

About the author

Kenneth Chew

Kenneth is best understood through his impassioned Instagram posts, composed in the deep of night when the tumultuous world finally lies silent. He probably prefers dogs to cats.