The end without the means

I’ve been noticing something about many of my students for awhile now. Something that concerns me about their approach to their education.  Something that I think they carry over into other areas of their lives.  They want the end without the means.  They want the result without having to participate in the process.  They want the title without the training, the destination without the journey.  As I pondered this sad state of affairs, I was suddenly aware that I often share this very thing in common with my students.  I am not happy to admit to this,  but if I am honest all I have to do is to look at the evidence.

For instance, I desire to experience new and different far away cultures.  I want to be there, I just don’t want to submit to the travel necessary to get there.  For me, it’s about the destination not the journey.  My bent towards motion sickness plus a dose of slight claustrophobia, make airplane travel particularly intimidating for me.  So I want to be there (wherever there is), I just don’t want to do what it takes to get there.

I’m the same way with clothes.  I like clothes.  I want clothes that are current in style, in the colors of my choosing, in the size that I need to be hanging in my closet ready and waiting for me to wear.  But I don’t want to shop for them.  All those malls, all those stores, all those racks in every store.  Finding something I like in a color I want in the right size at the right price, is exhausting to me.  Now there are those who thrive on this challenge of the hunt for that perfect article of clothing or shoes at the best possible price.  For them it is the thrill of the pursuit.  What is exhilarating for someone else is exhausting for me.  I just  want to skip that part and have the clothes magically appear in my closet.  Again I desire the end result without my having to participate in the process.

Life, however, doesn’t work this way.  At least it shouldn’t.  Consider education. Often, the students I see want the end result, the diploma and the degree. They want the good grades.  But they aren’t willing to put in the work necessary to achieve this goal.  The students aren’t willing to give their time, their energy or their attention to learn what needs to be learned in order to receive credit for the individual classes that will eventually earn them their diploma.  The process of learning requires of them sacrifice, dedication and persistence.  They are not willing to pay this price, but they want the outcome.  They refuse to participate in the process (reading books, writing papers, listening to lectures, doing homework, studying for tests etc.) but they expect the prize to be given to them whether they earned it or not.

Now anything worth having comes at a cost.  We value something more if we have to work for it than if it is handed to us.  We can’t fully appreciate that which we don’t have to sacrifice to achieve.

When I commit to achieving the end result by pursuing the means first,  the end is more meaningful to me and I am altered in the process in positive ways that prepare me for what is next.  If I am given the end without having to participate in the means I have none of the needed experience for what lies ahead.  I cheat myself by skipping the process and expecting the prize.

If I doubt that the means is just as important if not more so than the end result, all I have to do is to look at Jesus’ life to find the answer.  Jesus did not skip over the means in His journey to accomplish the end result.  On the contrary, Jesus participated fully in the process that took Him from cradle to cross to tomb to resurrection to ascension.  He skipped over nothing, left nothing undone.  And because of this we can know, as it says in Hebrews, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we  have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin.”  (Hebrews 4:14-15)

Jesus didn’t skip a single step of His journey on the way to His ultimate destination. He lived out each and every one of His earthly moments with no short cuts.  He didn’t come to earth as an adult with armies and political power and wealth and high status.  He came as a helpless baby and lived His life as one of the least of these, just like the people He came to seek and to serve and to save.  Jesus humbled Himself,  “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”  (Philippians 2:8)

Jesus knows our suffering because He experienced suffering Himself when He was here.  He even asked God that the cup might pass from Him,  (skip that step in the process)  but in the end He humbled Himself and participated in every excruciating moment of the crucifixion from the beatings beforehand to His final breath.  He fast forwarded over nothing so that He “died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  (1Peter 3:18)  Jesus endured the means and achieved a lasting end.  “But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5)

So there’s my answer.  I should not desire the end without the means.  If I do, I am only depriving myself of everything that the process, the journey of the means has to teach me, to give me, to equip me for what comes next.  If I don’t humble myself and submit to the means,  I will be unprepared and unfit for my destination, should I arrive there by less than honest means or by skipping over necessary steps in the process.

I witness daily the damage this end without the means mentality does in the lives of my students.  It will do no less in my own life if I am not willing to pay the price and submit to the process.  So I will get on that plane and not just endure but even embrace the process that will get me to where I want to be.  Maybe I will even go to that mall.  (no, that’s what catalog/online shopping is for)  After all, how am I going to have any good travel stories or shopping tales if I skip that part?

Today I renew my commitment to the means, knowing the end without it is not worth reaching.  travel on,  dear readers, the joy is in the journey

sincerely,     Grace Day




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