I call it The Insider’s Defense. It’s what we do when others criticize the decisions we make regarding the people we date, the careers we choose, or the purchases we make. We tell them: it may not make sense from out there, but from here on the inside everything looks just fine. (And we usually follow this up with a good ‘ol “none of your business, anyway!”)
As if our circumstances are so complex we’re the only ones smart enough to figure them out.
As if we’re the only one’s who’ve ever experienced anything like this before.
As if the guy that verbally abuses you in front of your friends is really Prince Charming if you just get to know him. Or the job that keeps you away from your family five nights a week will somehow be worth it if you put it enough hours or break just one more date with you spouse. Or the payments for the McMansion, new sports car, and boat you just bought somehow don’t add up to more than you’re bringing in every month.
What’s funny about The Insider’s Defense is that we tend only use it to justify the decisions we make. When it comes to evaluating others’ behavior, we’re fine making judgments from the outside. “She’s too good for him.” “They’ll be divorced within a year.” “He’s throwing away his career.” “There’s no way they can afford that.”
Any of this sound familiar?
And we get really nervous employing the Insider approach when it comes to following God’s will. Why is that?
Let’s say God calls us to forgive someone. Instead of just doing it, we predict how the other person will respond (because we know them so well, after all) and weigh the risks to our own happiness against the possible benefits of a renewed friendship. All the while, though, we remain outsiders to the situation. And to God’s will. Why not try it, and see what God’s promise actually feels like from the inside?
Maybe we feel prompted to seek counseling for an addiction. Why do we dismiss the possibility as absurd before ever trying it? Jump in, face your fear, and see what it’s like from the inside.
Let me be clear: I’m not advocating rash decisions. I’m not saying you should jump at every experience that presents itself or try on for size every vice and indulgence that comes your way. I’m saying this: when God calls you to a new land, go there.
In Numbers 13, God tells Moses to send some of his people to get a sneak peek of Canaan, the land God is giving the people of Israel. The spies do so, and come back with the following report:
We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan. (Numbers 13:27-29)
“Yep, the land’s beautiful,” in other words, “and perfect for our people. But from where we’re standing it looks like it’ll be too hard to take.” From the outside, I’m sure Canaan did look more like a threat than a blessing. But the spies ignored the fact that God had already given it to them. With God on their side, all they had to do was claim their gift.
Caleb, on the other hand, had the right idea. Numbers 13:30: “Caleb quieted the people before Moses” and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.'”
Moses’ spies stood around outside and calculated the risks of following God. Caleb said, “let’s go see what Canaan looks like from the inside”.
God’s will often seems scary. It pushes us out of our comfort zones. Out of our boundaries. As broken sinners we are perpetual outsiders, but we are called into the land of God’s grace and prosperity of a different measure.