*Warning: Buttload of pop-culture references ahead.
Alright, so I love the movies and the jokes and the stories and the music and the dancing and the art and the scenery of this world.
I do. I love all the things.
I dig me some Cosby Show and I’m a huge fan of “The Office”. I put a Michael Jackson CD on repeat when I’m driving in my car. I’m not ashamed to report that my kids love some them some Queen almost as much as I do.
Alright, I should be a little ashamed of that.
I think Jackson Pollock was amazing and brilliant even though he was a raging alcoholic who was probably bipolar, and most definitely a rude-boy when it came to women.
I’m irrationally scared to death of zombies yet I find TV shows like “The Walking Dead” strangely addicting (and quite frankly, educational–I am learning what not to do in the inevitable catastrophic event that humankind is plagued by a virus which causes corpses to rise and feed upon the living. Because you just never know.)
Given my obsession with all the awesome stuff this world has to offer, it’s no surprise that I do occasionally (very occasionally) let these unimportant things get in the way of what God expects out of me.
For instance, just this week I slacked bigtime on my bible study–3 days went undone, but I for darn sure watched 2 hours of television a night with my husband. It takes me listening to a whole slew of Christian songs about how holy is the Lord for me to get a good Jesus-vibe going…but after only 3 seconds of Flo-Rida, I’m thinking that da club can’t even handle me right now.
I’m telling you all of this to emphasize how easily influenced I am by what I see and what I hear; by what I do with my time and what I choose to fill my head with.
Our preacher asked in his sermon this past Sunday: “If you have access to clear drinking water, why on earth would you ever go back to drinking from a puddle?” And I sat there, nodding my head in my brain, thinking “Seriously! I would never go back!”
But two days later, I am here to tell you that I have the real answer to his question: We go back because it’s easy. It’s mindless. It’s effortless. And it’s initially more fun. I will not lie. Booty music tends to have a mad beat that I am absolutely compelled to jam to, whereas Gospel music is mildly toe-tapping at best. And Christian movies? They’re flat-out cheesy—I know it’s because they’re pure, and we’ve been completely de-sensitized when it comes to sex and violence in movies, but I want to see some gore! Shoot ’em up! Where’s The Rock? Where are the explosives? Am I right?
I don’t want to say all pop culture is bad (I have reason to believe that during the Apocalypse, Jesus will rock out to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”) but being enslaved to it—and filling my head with it, leaving no room for God’s direction—allowing my fascination/obsession with it to have a negative impact on my obedience to God and my service for His kingdom—is bad.
Someone I respected said to me once: “I am spiritual, I love Jesus and all, but I don’t let that affect my life. I don’t let it affect who I am.” I took that and ran with it. I believed that—I totally got it.
And now? I am ashamed to say I ever thought that line of reasoning was anything but hogwash (or, as Bernie Mac would’ve said: “That’s some bull!”) How can we not let Jesus change us?
Here’s some more pop culture for you: there’s a song out called “If I Could Have a Beer With Jesus” by Thomas Rhett. Initial reaction? Enough already with the idea of having a beer with Jesus. Beers are easy! Man up and do some real work—go to church and get your rear in gear!
Second thought? I would like to have a beer with Jesus. Jesus might like to have a beer with me. Jesus might grow tired of my church clothes and my church attitude and my church face that I put on every Sunday morning when I’m ready to worship. He wants to get down to the nitty-gritty–he wants to be open and honest and real with me. Beers? Indicate a certain comfortability with a person–there will be no putting on of airs when you’re invited to have a beer with someone.
Quite honestly I’m not sure I’d even like to have a beer with myself.
And if I was staring into the eyes of Jesus, and if he was talking to me, and I was being real with him (since obviously He’d know if I wasn’t), Corona in hand or not, I don’t think I’d ever be the same. In fact, I know I would never be the same.
Which begs the question: how come I am not different yet? Have I not had an open and honest communication with my Lord and Saviour? How has my relationship with Jesus changed my life, or better: why has my life not changed more?
Here are some things that are different since I have started to try to truly follow Jesus:
- The drinking has practically stopped. I had a few beers on vacation in Florida this summer. It’s been months since I touched, or even thought about touching, a drop. Which is good, for me, since alcoholics should probably avoid alcohol.
- I am a more patient and attentive wife and mother. Awesome.
- I have a supportive circle of friends. Also awesome.
- I read the actual bible more and have gained a slight amount of biblical knowledge. Slight.
- I do a lot more activities involving, and pretty much limited to, being at the church building, drinking coffee, eating snacks and watching videos.
That last fact drives me crazy. Here are some things that have not changed about me in the past 3 years:
- I am scared to death of tornadoes, zombies, hostile takeover by a foreign power be it aliens or the country of Mexico with Iranian aid by way of E.M.P.s and hand-to-hand combat.
- I have yet to reach out to people who are poor in the physical sense and in the spiritual sense.
- I sin like a mammajamma.
- I think about sinning like a mammajamma, like a lot.
- I still feel like I’m not helping, like there’s something more. Like surely it can’t be this easy.
What am I doing? What are we doing? What is our goal as believers? Is it to convince people to come to church and read the bible? Or would we really just be happy if they came to the building on Sunday and drank coffee and drove SUVs and lived in brick ranch-style houses? Is our goal to volunteer for programs that benefit people who are already doing fantastic? Do we avoid people who don’t conform to our routines? Do we love and serve God just as long as that means we’ll continue to be materially blessed, physically and financially secure, with happy, well-educated children?
“Write this to the angel of the church in the city of Sardis: ‘The One Who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: I know what you are doing. I know people think you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Make stronger what you have before it dies. I have not found your work complete in God’s sight. So remember what you have received and heard. Keep it. Be sorry for your sins and turn from them. If you will not wake up, I will come as a robber. You will not know at what time I will come…” Revelation 3:1-3
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. –Revelation 3:15-17 (NIV)
Is he talking about me?
Am I lukewarm?
I’m no biblical scholar but I’ll tell you what I think: He ain’t talking to the people who don’t ever read the Bible. I think he’s saying “You say you love me, and you say you’re Christians, but seriously? How can you even back that up? I call bullshit—and you’re full of it. Also? You’re kidding yourself. Don’t be lame by saying ‘well, Jesus, I went to church fairly regularly and kept 7 commandments about half the time. I certainly don’t worship Satan. I gave money to Feed the Children. Btw, thank you for the 3-car garage and that cruise to the Bahamas, that was life-changing.’ You’re either in or you’re out. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Will Jesus spit me out?
If Jesus was born of a virgin and became man; suffered, died, and was buried; and then rose again on the third day to be seated at the right hand of the Father, and He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, I best make sure I’m showing my gratitude—to our God, who sacrificed his own son just to free my piddly soul from the bonds of sin and the pits of hell.
How do I show my love and obedience to God? By putting on a cardigan sweater and pondering a bible verse or two on a Sunday morning. By getting all rowled-up when someone criticizes Christianity . By making promises to God that I have no intention of keeping. By telling people I love Jesus, but turning a blind eye towards the homeless and the needy, or anyone who doesn’t live like I think they ought to. By casting aside people who don’t quite jive with my agenda-of-the-day.
What am I doing? Am I lukewarm?
Sin doesn’t own me, but I still embrace a lifestyle of it. And God loves me, but I’m not honoring Him with most of my thoughts and actions (and inactions). Have I let Jesus change me? Do I love God unconditionally–even if it means losing my comfortability, my family, or my life? Even if it means going places that are scary or unsafe or both? Even if it means giving away all that I own? Would I love God and serve God with a happy and willing heart?
We could talk hypotheticals all day long. And truthfully if I based my obedience on my own human ability, I would fail constantly. I do fail constantly. I just can’t trust my own power–because I am, and always will be, severely lacking in that department.
It is God’s work in us that lifts us out of our ruts. His power—not ours—that breaks habits and addictions, that puts in us a desire to know Him and a drive to serve Him. God gives us courage in scary situations and strengthens us in moments of physical and mental exhaustion.He holds us steady just when our poor little earthly bodies are about to topple over.
So often my prayers go something like this: “Dear God. Thank you for all my stuff and please watch over my family.” But today I offer up another prayer, partially selfish—but mostly, desperate, because something is just wrong and off with what I say I believe and how I am carrying out my day-to-day.
Dear God, I am just disgusted with myself. Please take my heart in your hands and wring it out like a kitchen sponge. Just squeeze it out as hard as you can. Get rid of all the grody junk in me—the laziness, the greed, the apathy. Fix me Jesus. Fix my heart up, just please, please fix it. Fill me up with all the good stuff—use me to say good words and do good works, and then you take all the Honor and Glory and I won’t even ask for a thank-you.
So, really, after that, I’ll probably only ask for one thing—and that’s to stop praying like a 4-year old.