you have an irrationally sad reaction to reading that Kevin Smith has been booted off a plane for being too fat. I’m a fan of Smith’s work- my faves being Dogma & Mallrats, but really- getting sad for a day knowing that he was publicly shamed and embarrassed about having to buy two seats on a plane and then having a tweet-fest about it is a little odd even for me.
I started to think about the other reasons I’ve been sad lately and how I’ve responded besides feeling ridiculous amounts of uncharacteristic empathy for Kevin Smith- things like: eating 1/2 a bag of Doritos (my go-to junk food of choice), sighing at the grey cloudy weather when at 8am Reuben asks me every day “is it the daytime?”, being angry and uncomfortable and stinky that my lactose intolerance has returned after a 2-year hiatus and a list of other things out of my control that I’ve reacted on a scale of “big-time jerk- to debbie downer” to when I realized- the book I just finished for one of my grad classes Searching for God Knows What
by Donald Miller made me tremendously sad. If any of my Wheaton cronies happen to read this post- I’d especially love to know what you thought/felt about the book if you’ve read it. The book is a wonderfully narrative picture of what a relationship with Jesus could be like and is like for Miller and many other people who follow Jesus. It challenged the way I think about sharing my faith, the ways I talk about Jesus and how I pray. But the worst part about this book was how it was like looking in a mirror and being horrified at all the ugliness reflected back at me.
Miller writes about the learning tool that many of us have pondered over in some sort of sociology lesson- “if there are 10 people in a lifeboat with X, Y and Z characteristics and you have to choose one to toss overboard, who would you choose?” Basically, the question of “who has worth and value in our culture?” He started to refer to this kind of thinking as being in the lifeboat & elaborated very eloquently & hilariously about the ways we try to find acceptance in other people, manage our images and secure love from others to “not get tossed out of the lifeboat.” The Kevin Smith article was just another reminder of the ways we judge one another & then how bent out of shape/hurt we are when we do this to one another.
Writing about it here in summary sounds trite, but the ideas (or perhaps the Holy Spirit) started to wear on me over the few days I read the book. All the ways I manage my image- what I wear,
what I say or don’t say, what I eat, what I write are all ways that I’m looking for people to in some way fawn all over my fabulousness/smartness/mad skillz. The sickest part of the book was the ways that religious people, in scripture and in culture today (including myself) do this- saying who is in and out, acceptable and not acceptable to God, what belief in Jesus looks like according to certain theologies/political agendas/morality. Pretty soon I/we get so caught up in all of this we forget that following Jesus is learning to love him and become more like him as we experience his friendship. This was the thing that made me most depressed- to know that there are millions of people, people I love, people I don’t like, people I’ve never met that have a caricature of Jesus that has become so distorted by what I along with other Christians say and do that they don’t even want to experience knowing Jesus themselves.
No wonder I’ve been feeling depressed. However the best part of this book was the reminder that a friendship with Jesus isn’t about a list of what someone says you should or shouldn’t do- it’s the most mysterious, challenging, heart-pounding, thoroughly loving relationship you could ever have. It’s not a formula, it’s not a set of precepts- it’s an invitation to find out who God has created each of us to be and to actually become more human. I know that some people who may read this blog will have the caricature Jesus pop up in their minds after reading this last sentence. The one you immediately associate with the cruel ways you were treated by people in a church/youth group/someone who claimed to follow Jesus. They ways you associate Jesus with being demeaned, told you’re wrong, and not being “in the lifeboat.” All I can say is I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that this was the Jesus you experienced and I’m sorry that I’m part of the problem. I pray that God himself would heal the wounds that I, along with so many others have caused because of my own self-focus.
Even in the midst of being depressed over my own brokenness and all the ways I see it play out in our obsession for affirmation everyday I was reminded of Jesus’ words about image management in the sermon on the mount in Matthew chapter 6. In the verses before this Jesus is talking about how we don’t need to stress about what we’ll eat or what we’ll wear- that God cares for us and is able to provide for all of our needs- especially our need to be loved, affirmed and valued:
“if God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
It was a good reminder to me, and hopefully in some small way a reminder to you of God’s care for your life. I want to be caught up in God-reality rather than image management. I’m praying that my caricatures of Jesus will fade away and that and you & I, blog lurkers and blog readers will see the beauty, mystery and love found in getting to know Jesus for who he actually is.