Paper Walls

Day 1 of 4 • This day’s reading

Devotional

Because…

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me move beyond the “becauses” that are holding me back. Help me fix my eyes on Jesus so I can toss aside excuses and live out your plan for my life.

Reading

Excuses are like paper walls. Imagine a large “brick” wall made of paper. From a distance, it looks impenetrable. But it’s flimsy. It’s easy to poke holes into. The same is true of our excuses—they may seem solid. They look and feel like obstacles or reasons. Yet sometimes our reasons aren’t good reasons; they’re merely excuses.

Excuses easily become becauses. We all have becauses we hide behind. Why don’t you? Why do you always? Because! We have our reasons.

There’s a fine line between a reason and an excuse. It’s easy to tell the difference between the two in other people. We tell them, “You’re just making excuses” or “Quit making excuses.” The implication is that they’re making stuff up. They’ve created a paper wall and are trying to pass it off as a brick wall. They’re dressing up an excuse and calling it a reason.

This is so obvious when we look at our friends, families, or co-workers. It’s not so obvious when we look in the mirror. We say, “The reason is…” We almost never say, “My excuse is…”

Think about it. Is it possible that some of your reasons or becauses are excuses? Is it possible you’ve invented reasons to defend certain behaviors, reactions, or overreactions? Have you invented reasons for procrastinating, neglecting, or avoiding?

When we make excuses, we blame something internal on something—or someone—external. The moment we decide it’s something “out there,” we start building a paper wall. “I’m afraid to try” becomes “That’s just not my thing.”

Is it possible you’re missing out because you’ve walled yourself in?

It’s hard to follow Jesus freely when you’re hiding behind a paper wall. Our excuses compete for the lordship of our lives. Excuses can become our king. Excuses demand, Don’t try that. Don’t go there. Don’t admit you’re wrong.

In the book of Hebrews, the apostle Paul urges believers not to use trials as an excuse to retreat from their faith. Get rid of every impediment to progress, he says. Toss aside anything that trips you up.

… Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. (Hebrews 12:1)

Jesus is very specific about sin. Sin is anything that hurts someone—or you. Lying to someone is a sin. It hurts people and breaks relationships. Lying to yourself is a sin because it hurts you. Excuses are lies you tell yourself about yourself. Excuses get in the way of the race you were born to run…

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1)

If you’re a Christian, the race marked out for you is God’s plan for your life. But you won’t discover that race, much less participate in it, if you’re manufacturing excuses. When you make excuses, you’re focusing on yourself. And if you live for yourself, you’ll only have yourself to show for yourself. People who make excuses rarely make a difference.

Paul tells us to stop focusing on ourselves. If you’re a Jesus follower, you’re given a next step: to fix your eyes on Jesus.

Let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1–2)

When we fix our eyes on Jesus and follow him, we’ll eventually have to look away from the lies we tell ourselves. Jesus will lead us through all the nonsense. What once shut us down will become an opportunity—if we shut down the excuse factory. We’ll begin to ask, Why not me? Why not now? Why not forgive?

Have you ever noticed that the people who do the most good are often the people who have the most legitimate reasons not to? Rather than making up excuses, they do what they can with what they have. You could be one of those people—a person who decides to live life without excuses.

Excuses make us small. Jesus invites us to live big.

We’re better off when we choose to leave excuses behind. The world becomes a better place. We’re free to follow our Savior instead of saying no for reasons that are no reason at all.

Tomorrow, we’ll start the process of learning how to tear down our paper walls.

Reflection

As you read, were you reminded of something you tell yourself as a way of avoiding a responsibility, a relationship, or an opportunity?