Now that I actually see those words, I don’t feel so bad. What do you think?
I want, not just a revival, but a full-on reset. Well, almost. We’d need to keep the most essential element in order to press forward.
That we are no longer “WOWed!” by the amount of data at our fingertips informs us that the information age is almost over. Its effects have been far reaching. Concepts like evolution, doctrine, hidden gospels, church abuses, and many questionable traditions have been thrust into the spotlight. Everyone interested can learn all about these things. From a near-outsider perspective, the result seems to be a palpable lack of focus. Should the Church cater to the people? Should the Church cling to tradition? Should the Church do this? Should the Church do that?
Last Sunday I heard a sermon that covered a verse from the Bible that mentioned the words “predestine” and “foreknow”. The preacher preambled much longer than normal before beginning to teach what these words mean. Why did he need to preamble? Because nearly 2000 years have muddied the waters. Within the Church, “predestine” and “foreknow” are now hot button issues. That means that some of you may already be put-off that I included them here.
To me, they are nothing more than stumbling blocks.
Here’s the question that can’t be avoided: How far would Jesus go to save a person? Remember, we’re talking about reality. Life, death, heaven, hell, love, separation, light, darkness–the real. The simple fact is that we know more about the Bible and it’s authors today, than many believers did for the last 2000 years. Some of the new information is difficult to reconcile. Most of the new information is difficult to ignore. Would Jesus ask us to reconcile it? Would He ask us to ignore it? Would He sweepingly reject it as clearly the work of the devil?
What’s the first step to this reset? Forget everything you know about Christianity except Jesus. Study him. If other books of the Bible need to be referenced to figure out Him out, reference them. Reference them insofar as they help us understand Him, but no farther. For example, take again the words “predestine” and “foreknow.” Did He reference those ideas? If not, ignore them. I want to ignore what we know about the formation of the church, the early church leaders, the saints, church history, everything (even Paul). Whether definitely confusing or likely helpful, I want to ignore it. For now. A deliberate act. A purposeful act. An act with the end in mind.
I believe I know what grace feels like. I also believe that despite my sincerest efforts I have contributed to others not knowing what grace feels like. I’m okay with that. But I won’t do it anymore. One option staring me in the face is resetting Christianity and beginning anew. I can’t picture the result of a unified focus on Jesus without having delusions of grandeur. It probably won’t happen. I’d sure like to try. How about you?
“The thing is, is no matter our differences we should be able to get along.”
“…and that’s the end of that story…ummmm…oh, yeah, and then there was another time when…”
“…to get to the other side!..soooo…like I was saying…”
They were all guilty. All of them. Even him. He took comfort anytime he knew that to be the case. There was something appealing about universal condemnations. In this particular case, the crime was filler word use. Why? Because filler words were one more thing that he knew he should avoid, but couldn’t. And this inability to stop using something frustrated him to no end.
Of late, something intriguing occurred to him. He began to really listen for filler words, and see if he could determine a pattern. He wanted to learn if there was anything he could do, any tip he could develop, to help himself and others stop using them. And listen he did. He listened to his own usage, he listened to other people’s usage. After enough listening, the evidence pointed toward one specific conclusion. For the most part, people use filler words to maintain control of the conversation. At their core, then, filler words are a symptom of selfishness and laziness.
Yes, he was sure of it. He thought of it this way. Before children begin using filler words, they are taught to not interrupt. And to interrupt is to speak while someone else is speaking. It appears now, that an unintended consequence of this well-intended “don’t interrupt” principle is that speakers learn that if they are emitting interruptible sounds, even if not words, they will not have to give up the floor. Enter filler words.
He knew he was on to something when he pushed the idea further. Who uses the most filler words? People who talk the most, naturally. His ego wanted to believe this was coincidental–therefore a lesser crime–not causal, but he could feel the truth. He played out a little experiment in his head. He imagined a world where the use of a filler word ended that person’s turn to speak. In this fiction, he imposed the harshest limitations. If someone used a filler word, and no one else had anything to say–the conversation ended. As he played the scenario out in his head, it became clear that the use of filler words is, in fact, causal in determining which people end up talking the most. Just the same, if certain people can speak at length without filler words, it is a demonstration of skill and they should be able to speak. Who was he to limit a person with demonstrable ability?
Equally condemned, he could not judge too harshly though. It is likely that all people begin using filler words harmlessly enough. But that was the past. He wanted to be an agent of change. “Strive” – his adopted motto. Leading by example, he determined that he would stop speaking the next time he used a filler word. He wondered if anyone would follow suit.
Some pilots in Top Gun wore polo shirts under their flight suits. “Majesty” was number 33 in his 3rd grade Sunday school chorus book. MC Hammer appeared on Saturday Night Live on the opening weekend of The Addams Family movie. His dad put up a giant cardboard “Guess Who’s 30?” sign in the front yard on July 16, 1986. When playing catch with Jerry, it was easier to catch a raquet ball in the ol’ timey baseball mitt than a baseball. His 3rd grade friend slept during class in the Janet Jackson concert t-shirt he obtained at the concert the night before. Two loser sophomores attempted to intimidate him on the first day of highschool. His name was on the scoreboard at the Toledo Mud Hens game on his birthday. The vomit formed the shape of a baseball diamond in the corner of the stairwell at that same game. (Icks-nay on blue kool-aid.) Pastor Craig teared up at the end of some sermons. Jerry buried fool’s gold so that he could find treasure.
He could remember all these random things and more. Remembering so much was not without a burden. That burden was knowing where the gaps were. The burden was that he knew precisely what he could not remember.
Listening to the sermon, he was uncomfortable. Unable to ward off comparison and criticism, he longed for the memory of just a single sermon Pastor Craig gave. Was it the delivery? The rhythm? The message? He needed something to help him make sense of why today’s sermon sounded so backwards. Hmmmm…errrrrr. Nothing. Ugh!
Then a new thought occurred. Surrounding the gaps in his memory were Pastor Craig’s actions, which by definition were memorable. He remembered them to be authentic and full of integrity. He remembered feeling that the pastor loved him. What exactly did the pastor do to make him feel loved? The pastor aimed an intense focus on him. The kind of focus that is only made possible by living in the moment. Pastor Craig exemplified living in the moment.
At least, that’s how he remembered it.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
He couldn’t be sure, but it seemed there was at least a correlation between the two. He thought it was more likely cause and effect than correlation though. But he knew it didn’t have to be. He knew that laziness was the real culprit.
Of course, he couldn’t blame anyone in particular. It certainly wasn’t the aggregators fault; they were just amassing the information. Likewise, it wasn’t the people who provided the information’s fault. All they did was volunteer knowledge–itself a pretty harmless action at worst.
There seemed to be no other option. It had to be the individual. Was the individual person the guilty party? Yes. He was sure of it. He knew it all along. He tried to pretend the responsibility didn’t fall on a single person’s shoulders, but it was clear now. As much as he wanted to shrug off the burden, a singular sensation passing through his body signaled that he was right. Everyone was accountable for the lack of respect permeating the culture.
In an instant, his mood changed. He felt cheery and seemed to see the world in a different light. If the problem had been identified, there could now be a solution. Of all people, he should have seen this bright conclusion earlier. It mattered not. He wouldn’t allow these thoughts to dampen his mood.
Up until recently, there did seem to be a direct relationship between how much information a person knew, and how wise they were. Naturally, the information age has saturated mankind with data. As a result, everyone acted on the belief that there were answers to life’s problems. People thought that information was wisdom. The mistake is forgivable. Nonetheless, it must be addressed. The starting place, is re-learning how to respect another person. He knew this point was tricky, as not every person behaves in a way that deserves respect. He also knew that people rise to the occasion, and in this country every person has the same inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In this manner, at least, all people deserve respect.
So how does one give respect? See below.
Instructions for How To Respect:
Step 1 – Listen.
Step 2 – Ask, “What are you going to do?”
“Now that we know who is doing what, it’s time for the prepared speeches portion of the meeting. Each of our speakers today has prepared what I’m sure will be marvelous speeches. First up, giving her ‘Ice Breaker’ speech, is Debbie Hinkletoe. She has spoken many times in the past, but this is her first speech with us. It appears we are making her feel as nervous as Anne Frank practicing tuba, so let’s be sure to give her all the support we can muster,” joked the old man lovingly attempting ease Debbie’s visible nerves.
It was unclear whether the old man knew that the joke would, to put it mildly, step on a few toes. The few audience members cursed with the inability to resist a joke’s cue-to-laugh recognized their loneliness and quickly adopted silence.
Concluding the awkward moment, a respectable old woman declared, “Not funny.”
“Okay, meetings over. Thanks for nothing, you inconsiderate asshole!” seemed the words the audience expected to hear next. However, following General Waverly’s (White Christmas) advice, “If there’s one thing the army taught me, it was to be positive… …especially when you don’t know what you’re talking about,” the old man made the correct decision to let the moment pass and continue the meeting.
He couldn’t help but smile. He just witnessed an event only found in books: An old man putting to use his well-deserved ability to “not care”, and an old woman responding in kind. Oh, the subtleties of that moment. As if the back-and-forth had caused the air to congeal, a stillness overtook the room for but an instant. Neither mortal would yield. Neither should have. They both behaved perfectly. They both…were grandparents.
He always liked “grandparents” as a group, but he was never quite able to put his finger on why; until that exact moment.
But first, while it may seem obvious, the reader must learn what he believed a grandparent to be. A grandparent is not simply someone whose children have had children. By his thinking, to be a grandparent, one’s children must be (or have) raising their own children. Biological grandparents fulfilling the role of primary parent are not grandparents to him, then. This is a necessary qualification.
It seemed to him that something magical happened when an old person was fully released from parental responsibilities. The concern for ‘appropriate’ and ‘proper’ disappeared, rightfully so. Grandparents, then, were the living proof that even the loftiest concepts needed to be knocked off their pedestals every now and again. It was the exchange between these grandparents that revealed this truth clearly.
This realization had a second effect. It motivated him, for he was a parent. Moreover, he now understood that to earn his status as grandparent he must aggressively embrace his parental responsibility. Any wasted time or opportunity would only result in his missing out on the ability to someday be the salt of life, would result in his missing out on the near-sanctified duty to offend, provoke, insult, but also spoil, entertain, love.
More than that, he finally understood why, no matter what they did, he always felt loved by his own grandparents. It was because they wouldn’t be his grandparents if his parents hadn’t loved him first.