Posted by: Botolff | July 17, 2009

Pay It Forward

“I guess it’s hard for people who are so used to things the way they are – even if they’re bad – to change.  ‘Cause they kind of give up.  And when they do,
everybody kind of loses.”
 – Trevor McKenney “Pay It Forward”

You know those times when you stumble across a film you’ve always wanted to see, but realize that somehow years ago it got lost in the shuffle of life?  Yeah, “Pay It Forward” was that film for me last night. 

It took me a little bit to get past the “I see dead people” line that kept replaying itself in my head at the first few sightings of Haley Joel Osment.  But once I settled in, I was along for the ride.  Who knew that someone could come up with a multi-level marketing plan for kindness and make a book, movie and movement out of it.  Did you know there is even a Pay It Forward Foundation?  Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah, I knew that 10 years ago when the movie came out.”  Like I said, I missed the boat when it docked in 2000.  Anyway, I like the idea.  A bit idealistic, but effective if we are all willing to keep pressing in.

Pay It Forward, as I understand it, is a concept focused on offering something positive to three other people that they wouldn’t likely be able to accomplish or receive without our help.  I think one of the key words is “offer.”  To offer is to invite, not demand.  It’s based in freedom of choice, which means it’s given out of love, not implemented through fear.  Pay It Forward seems to have momentum that creates opportunity ahead of someone for them to step into if they want to risk it.  Maybe it’s like blowing a stiff wind into a dense fog for someone so they can see a little bit further down the path.

One of the problems is that sooner or later, we can get scared of the fog in front of us, and paranoid about the people that are at our backs.  So instead of Paying It Forward, we turn around and start making people pay behind us.  We don’t want to risk anymore because it’s too scary for us now, but we’ve lead a bunch of people into this fog assuring them that there is some clarity on the other side.  We begin to doubt ourselves, our God, and surely the people who said they had our backs.  So we turn around and start swinging at them.  We don’t stop and think about what we are doing or who or what we are hitting, because it isn’t about their care anymore.  It’s about our self-preservation.  And some people, no matter how good our intentions as we lead others down the path, will stop paying it forward the minute we get scared, and start taking our fear out on the people tapping us on the shoulders asking us where we’re going. 

I have interacted with a number of wounded ministers who come out of ministries lead by people too scared to keep risking.  They may have even been bold in some of their first steps.  But whatever they believe they came up against was too big for them in the end; and instead of stepping forward, they turned around and took people out; so they could keep doing what they’ve always done and not have anyone tapping them on the shoulder asking, “When are we going to move forward again?”

Pay It Forward- It takes a lot of risk, but nothing that Jesus hasn’t already modeled. 


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