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Escalator Theology

September 25th, 2008 

Focus Text: Proverbs 4: 14-17 (NLT)

14 Don’t do as the wicked do,
      and don’t follow the path of evildoers.
 15 Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.
      Turn away and keep moving.
 16 For evil people can’t sleep until they’ve done their evil deed for the day.
      They can’t rest until they’ve caused someone to stumble.
 17 They eat the food of wickedness
      and drink the wine of violence!


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

When I was a kid, I was always fascinated by escalators.  Escalators were like little amusement park rides that went really slow and were found in the strangest of places . . . like JC Penney or Sears.  As a child, these places didn’t particularly thrill me or cause my mind to teem with images of fun-filled playtime.  Ok, they still don’t!

If I found myself in a place with an escalator, it usually meant that a shopping trip was in session. No little boy enjoys being the human accessory to a mother or older sister as they visually graze through infinite clothing possibilities.  Mind-numbing, outdated shopping music plays through the trebly speakers of the mediocre sound system installed in the sterile, white ceiling tiles.  Endless circular racks of seemingly identical clothing choices are strategically planted every two or three feet like little textile strongholds that refuse to release little boys to play.  There seem to be check-out counters located everywhere; yet, there are never sales associates present at them when it’s time to actually purchase the one belt your mom decided on after trying on fifty-seven different outfits.  To a little boy, those two hours of quality playtime are unrecoverable . . . forever lost in a sea of patterned dresses and shoulder-padded coats.  

But there is redemption: the escalator.  If one can slyly slip away while his mother is hypnotized by a prospective outfit or indisposed in the dressing room, then there is fun to be had after all.  Besides sliding down the moving handrails, the other game of merit for escalator junkies is the classic “Run Up the Down Escalator.”  Yeah, now that’s real entertainment!

Escalators are funny though.  If one chooses to walk up the down escalator, he better be prepared for a few obstacles.  The most obvious impediments are the people who are riding down while you’re walking up.  For some reason, they seem so irritated that you are having fun in this store– everyone knows that fun is not compatible with shopping!  Just go back to the racks and keep droning on until you give up and go home empty-handed– that’s why we’re all here!

But you defy the conventional expectation and dodge the evil stares of angry shoppers.  This is your game and nothing must stop you from reaching the top!

The second obstacle is a bit more tricky because it isn’t dependent on others; it’s about you.  It may seem obvious, but it is profound nonetheless.  Here’s the central premise to the backwards escalator experience: if you stop moving, you will move backwards.  A choice to stand still is actually a choice to go back down to the bottom where you started.

The truths of these verses are a lot like my childhood escalator exploits.  This passage is refers to the direction of the “path” of those who live an evil lifestyle.  Like those who are trapped in the department store by the irresistible, innate desire to keep shopping, we are prone to captivity to a lifestyle that is contrary to the truth.  In other words, most of the world is headed down on the escalator.  We don’t love.  Our words aren’t true.  We are greedy.  We use others for our own gain. That’s the downward escalator that we are all on.

This passage speaks to the captivity of this kind of life saying that we “can’t sleep” or “rest until we’ve fulfilled the worldly expectation of our lives.  In other words, we are enslaved by sin.

But wait, there’s hope!  Turn away and keep moving” (verse 15).  There are two parts to defying sin’s hold on our lives.  The first is to “turn away.”  By the free gift of Jesus’ life that was laid down on our behalf, we now have the option to turn around and begin climbing back up the escalator.  Sure, there is a huge contingent of others who are still going down and they will often be frustrated as your upward steps collide with their downward ones, but turning upward is the first step.  This is repentance. This is living life in relationship with Jesus.  This is the hope of shopping . . . I mean, the world.

But turning around won’t be enough!  We must “keep moving” if we are make it.  The most difficult challenge of this walk with Christ is that it must be trekked daily.  If we stop moving, we are actually moving backwards!  Why?  Because we still live in a “downward-moving” world.  A choice to do nothing is a choice to go backwards.  In other words, standing still is not a spiritual option– we all move one direction or the other whether we like it or not.

The idea that we can never stop moving may seem impossible and disheartening.  There’s no way I can keep this up!  Eventually, I’m going to collapse.  Oh, but here’s the good part!  You’re not walking up this backwards world under your own power.  God’s sustaining power is your promise and God’s loving Spirit is your energy.  Even when you do slide back, the same grace that first turned you around is still ever-available to correct your positioning.  In other words, the constant motion necessary isn’t just your motion– it’s the divine motion of a God who set His plan into motion long before you ever stepped onto this escalator.  You can rest assured that He will not get tired and that His efforts will always be enough.

So keep climbing up!  Hey, this is the fun part, remember?

NOTE: No shoppers were injured in the writing of this blog.



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