These two words make up a tiny little phrase, but it packs a pretty powerful punch.
When added to a sentence, these two words add an entirely different dimension and can completely change the meaning.
Don’t believe me? Well, then let’s try these examples on for size. And don’t worry; they’re preshrunk, so they won’t disappear when you stick them in the dryer.
Example #1: I like kids… in theory.
(This is true. Children are wonderful little critters… as long as you can return them to their parents when they start crying.)
Example #2: Your outfit is cute… in theory.
(This can be applied to a variety of different outfit choices; if you need more specific visuals, please reference my yearbook photos. Yuck.)
Example #3: I like celery… in theory.
(Yes, I realize that celery is good for me. Yes, I understand that celery has negative calories, meaning that the act of chewing celery burns more calories than the celery actually contains. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have never been able—and will never be able—to stomach celery. Not even as disguised as “ants on a log” with the peanut butter and raisins on top. Blech.)
Example #4: Riding full-speed downhill on a bike and making a sharp ninety-degree turn into your driveway is a great idea… in theory.
(It’s all fun and games until you become blood-brothers with the concrete. Don’t ask me how I know.)
Example #5: The Grand Canyon is an amazing vacation destination… in theory.
(I’m from Kansas. I hate heights. The Grand Canyon is very high. Let’s just say that when I looked over the edge, I wish I had invested in Depends. Enough said.)
Example #6: A Calculus 2 class at 7:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday your first semester of college is the perfect addition to the history major’s schedule… in theory. Or not even in theory. That’s just a terrible idea all around. Who in their right mind would do something that absurd? … Ummm… No comment.
Anyway, you get the point. Lots of things sound fantastic as ideas, but the reality can be a different story.
That’s how I feel about Jesus sometimes. I want to obey Him and do His will for my life. I want to count the cost and take up my cross daily and follow Him. I want to surrender everything—my whole life, all my gifts and talents, and my very being—to Him alone…
Reality complicates things, doesn’t it? It muddles everything up. It gets in the way. I want all these qualities, I desire this wholehearted devotion to Jesus, but sometimes—the vast majority of the time, really—it seems too overwhelming and too impossible. I’m good at loving Jesus when it’s comfortable, when there’s nothing at stake, no risk involved. But when the going gets tough, I’m too weak to get going. This fair-weather, “theoretical” Christianity is so tempting, and, at the same time, so disgusting. No wonder Jesus says He’ll spit the lukewarm out of His mouth. Yuck.
So, then, what can I do? How do I overcome this dichotomy, this barrier, this wall between living safely and cautiously—daintily dipping my toes into the water—and living adventurously, out of faith—doing a running leap into a cannon ball with a splash big enough to soak the lifeguard? I don’t know about you, but sitting on the edge of the pool can be pretty boring. Sure, you may improve your tan a tad (or completely fry), but the real fun happens in the pool. They call it a “swimming pool” and not a “get UV radiation pool” for a reason. I don’t want to sunburn; I want to dive in! But how?
Fortunately for me—and for you too—God isn’t theoretical. He doesn’t say, “I love you… in theory” and “I’m with you… in theory” or “I’ll help you… in theory.” On the contrary! God loves us, is with us, and helps us—in reality. He sent Jesus to show us the reality of His love and concern for us. And after Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave us His Holy Spirit to fulfill that role in each of our lives. He promises to help us through everything, whatever comes our way. And, if we let Him, He’ll even help us overcome our own lukewarm nature and become the Christ-followers that He created us to be.
And He might even help me like celery. You just never know… in theory. 🙂