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It is NOT what it is


A few months ago, in reflecting on the lessons that were coming up then, I wrote about " Three Things We Shouldn't Say" - little religious expressions or sentiments you hear repeated so often that you start believing they're based on biblical truth, even if they aren't.

Well, in thinking about this Sunday's lessons, I've come up with a fourth: another popular expression that we, as people of faith, really shouldn't say.

And that's this:

"It is what it is."

I don't know when that expression started - it doesn't seem like that long ago - but all of a sudden it seems like you hear it almost every day.

Similar to the other expressions that I'm challenging, it's often said in a well-intentioned way: as if to say, "I'm not going to sweat it," or "I think I'm going to make peace with this situation." Maybe it's a modern-day equivalent of saying "no use in banging your head against the wall."

But if you listen carefully to when it is being said, and why, I think that more often, something more insidious is at work. I think that more often it's said in the exact same tone as "screw it."

In other words, "it is what it is" is often resignation.  

Resignation is false contentment. Too often, "it is what it is" really means "I give up...I can't see any use in fighting this...so I'll pretend that this situation is immutable, unchangeable, forever fixed."

And if that is what is meant by "it is what it is," then we (as people of faith) really ought to strike it from our vocabularies.


 Because "it" is NOT necessarily "what it is."  

Whatever "it" is, it has developed. It has been brought about, by someone or some set of events.

In Sunday's lessons, we'll hear a lesson from Exodus where God expresses his frustration with the people Israel, telling Moses he's ready to destroy them. Moses' reaction? It's about as far away from "it is what it is" as you can get: he "implores" God, asking him to change his mind.   

And guess what? God doesn't say "it is what it is," either: we hear that "the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to to bring on his people." God changes his mind in response to Moses' plea.  

And on Sunday, we'll hear Jesus using the example of a shepherd leaving the ninety-nine safe-and-secure sheep to go after and rescue the one lost sheep.   

He does not tell a story of a shepherd saying, "one of the sheep is lost? Oh well, it is what it is."  

We'll also hear Jesus' example of the woman who has ten silver coins, and loses one of them. She lights a lamp, sweeps the house, and searches carefully until she finds it.  

She does not say, "Ah, I still have nine perfectly good coins...it is what it is."  

And so: the next time you hear yourself tempted to say, "it is what it is," ask yourself:

"Wait: why am I saying that? Am I really content, really happy with "it"? Or am I surrendering to resignation, resigning myself to something I should be imploring God about, searching after, and diligently pursuing...

...and then resisting and fighting "it" until "it" is decidedly NOT what "it is"? 

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