No More Excuses
“The alarm clock is possessed.”
“I know it’s possessed. I set it every night and it never goes off in the morning. That’s why he’s always late for school.”
I had heard plenty of excuses for tardiness, but this one surpassed them all. The mom was dead serious. The devil was in the clock. I wondered how this new family had found our Lutheran school and what had “possessed” them to enroll their son. I knew we had our work ahead of us, sorting through the issues this family was dealing with and attempting to educate the boy and teach him about the love of Jesus.
I always told my fourth graders to begin with “I” when they started explaining why some paper was late or not signed and returned. Mom and Dad were convenient excuses to use, but I encouraged them to take responsibility for their own mistakes. No one was going to clean up after their messes for the rest of their lives. They might as well start while they were young when the problems weren’t so serious.
My own children learned early on to own their mistakes. I remember my son telling me his friend offered a plausible excuse he could use on me. He assured his buddy that Mom was too smart to fall for that.
My own mother used the phrase, “That’s a poor excuse for a…” and then filled in the blank with the current focus of derision. A pen that didn’t work. A meal that left one still wanting. A teacher who didn’t measure up even to the basics. The implication was that there was no effort to be useful, satisfying, or commendable.
We insisted our children ask to be excused from the table after a meal or from a room if we were entertaining company. It was only polite to ask. And sometimes the answer was “No, you may not.”
“Excuse me” is used for a variety of reasons, depending on the circumstance and the voice inflection. “I need to get through.” “I’m more important.” “What I have to say is more important.” “Can I just get a word in edgewise!”
Excuses often are justifications. There are extenuating circumstances. Or maybe someone doesn’t feel it’s a big deal. Why all of the fuss over such a small thing? If you try that with a law enforcement officer, it’s usually not a successful outcome. After all “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”
Hmmm.... That sounds familiar. “I have written my law upon their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). We humans know. Even though the Ten Commandments came much later in God’s history with us, bad behavior was never excused. Adam and Eve knew right from wrong, and that knowledge passed on through their offspring. Cain knew. God held people accountable right from the beginning. There was the flood, for goodness sake. Yes, for the sake of goodness.
Excuse means also to pass over without punishment. Ahhh… the Passover in Egypt. And then the ultimate Passover sacrifice of the Lamb of God who took away the sins and excuses of a whole world.
Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
According to God, there is no excuse for not knowing Him. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, His glorious creation tells you He is the Almighty. Isaiah even asks the rhetorical question that gets right to the point: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 40:28).
Yet there are those who haven’t heard of God’s love for them, or need to hear it again to be convinced. Just like on the day of Pentecost, we need to keep taking the message to people in their own language. Oh this isn’t just about translating. It’s the real connection we make with others… real solutions, real answers. We know we’re getting through when we hear them say, “Now you’re talking! Now you’re speaking my language!”
I have that privilege of taking that connection to others. God has provided the technology to communicate His Word, His promises, His faithfulness, His love, His salvation. There really is no excuse. Anything I offer in an attempt to explain my reluctance is pointless.
But I still do it. I make up so many excuses for my choices… what I say and do and what I fail to say and do.
Then my Lord Jesus simply holds up His nail-pierced hand and says, “Stop! I’ve already pardoned you… taken away the penalty. And I’ll never seek revenge for what you’ve done… because I’ve also forgiven you.”
And that’s when I feel His promised strength renewing me so... as Isaiah 40:31 reminds me... I can walk, run, and truly soar with joy!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,